For the second leg of the Europa League quarter-finals, Villarreal made a short trip to the Mestalla to play against their Valencian neighbours. Under a torrential downpour and a win with at least three away goals required to progress, the challenge was steep for the Yellow Submarine.
Marcelino’s Valencia, having secured three vital away goals in the first leg, needed to defend his aggregate lead, or even better, extend it. In this tactical analysis, we examine how he used a clinical defend-and-counter tactic to overcome his former side Villarreal to reach the semi-finals.
Valencia stuck with their 4-4-2 system that has proved successful in the Copa del Rey, Spanish League and the Europa League thus far. Striker Rodrigo Moreno was left out of the starting XI and instead, Santi Mina was chosen to partner the speedster Kévin Gameiro upfront. Gonçalo Guedes played at right midfield to join the duo in counter-attacks. Mouctar Diakhaby was paired with Facundo Roncaglia in central defence.
Javier Calleja made interesting choices to his Villarreal lineup. With his team fighting to stay out of relegation in La Liga, his priority was the weekend fixture against CD Leganés. He chose to play a 4-1-4-1 with his key players missing in the starting line-up. Samuel Chukwueze started on the bench, while Karl Toko Ekambi and Santi Cazorla weren’t even included in the matchday squad.