Villarreal v Bayern Munich: Lewy can shine in Spain
Villarreal dumped Juventus out in the last 16, but our Bundesliga expert Kevin Hatchard thinks they'll struggle to contain Robert Lewandowski when they face Bayern Munich...
Emery still has the golden touch
Villarreal's sensational win at Juventus in the last 16 was the perfect example of coach Unai Emery's ability to plot his way through a two-legged tie. Having drawn the first leg 1-1 at the Ceramica, they went to Turin and rigidly stuck to their gameplan.
Instead of keeping possession in their own half, they had the quality and patience to keep the ball in the Juve half, waiting for a mistake. When that error occurred (Daniele Rugani lunged in the penalty area and brought down Francis Coquelin), Villareal seized on that mistake and took full advantage, going on to win 3-0.
Emery won a hat-trick of Europa League titles with Sevilla, and won that competition with the Yellow Submarine last season. It's often the case that his teams falter domestically when they are in the latter stages of a European competition, and that has certainly been true recently. In the last month they have lost at Osasuna, Cadiz and Levante. They failed to score in all of those defeats, and it's worth noting that both Cadiz and Levante are in the bottom four.
That run of form has damaged Villarreal's chances of qualifying for Europe next season, but they still have dangerous players. Arnaut Danjuma has seamlessly made the transition from the English Championship to La Liga, and has scored eight goals in the league and five in the Champions League. Spain striker Gerard Moreno has struggled with injury of late, but he's back to full fitness, and has scored 11 goals across the league, the Champions League and the UEFA Super Cup.
Bayern looking happier and healthier
There was a spell earlier in 2022 when Bayern didn't quite look like their relentless and powerful selves. Joshua Kimmich had only just returned from COVID-19, Alphonso Davies was sidelined by myocarditis, and Leon Goretzka was struggling with a pesky knee injury. The team looked defensively fragile, and a 4-2 defeat at newly-promoted Bochum was swiftly followed by a 1-1 draw at Salzburg in the first leg of their last-16 UCL tie.
However, Julian Nagelsmann's side have got their groove back. They smashed Salzburg 7-1 in the return leg, part of an eight-game unbeaten sequence. Although there was controversy during their 4-1 win at Freiburg on Saturday (they briefly had 12 players on the pitch after a botched substitution), it was still a fine performance, and the record champions are now nine points clear at the top.
Bayern still don't keep enough clean sheets though. They have recorded just three shut-outs across their last 13 games in all competitions, including just one clean sheet in the last six away matches.
Davies is back in training, but there is no indication that he'll be involved here, although Nagelsmann says he could be in action next week. Injury-plagued midfielder Corentin Tolisso has picked up another muscle problem, so he has once again been sidelined.
Bayern a little too short to excite
Although Bayern are in form, I can't get excited about their price of 1.64 in the Match Odds market, although there is a way to boost it to 2.7 if you throw in a Both Teams To Score element by using the Bet Builder.
Both teams have found the net in nine of Bayern's last 11 games, while Villarreal have scored in 16 of their last 18 home matches. If you look at the Spanish side's home form in the Champions League this term, it is underwhelming. They lost to Manchester United, drew with Juventus and Atalanta, and beat a limited Young Boys side 2-0.
Overall, Villarreal have put together a nine-match unbeaten sequence at home, so if you simply want to back both teams to score, you can do that on the Exchange at 1.71 or double up BTTS and Over 2.5 Goals on the Sportsbook at 1.8.
Ruthless Robert worth backing
Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski continues to perform at an elite level. The Pole helped his country to qualify for the World Cup by scoring in the playoff final against Sweden, and he has now netted 51 goals in 45 appearances for club and country. In the Champions League alone he has 12 goals, making him the competition's top scorer this term.
If you worry about backing Bayern to win the game against stubborn opponents, you could just back Both Teams To Score and Robert Lewandowski to score on the Bet Builder at 2.26.
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