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Aug 7, 2021 at 7pm UK at Elland Road
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Preview: Villarreal vs. Leeds United - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Pre-Season Friendlies clash between Villarreal and Leeds United, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Ahead of next week's European Super Cup clash with Chelsea, Villarreal will take on Leeds United in the final pre-season friendly for both sides.

Unai Emery's side triumphed in the final of the Europa League in May, but their pre-season campaign has provided some cause for concern, while the Yorkshire outfit have also suffered several disappointing defeats in their preparations for the upcoming Premier League season.

Match preview

Villarreal manager Unai Emery pictured in December 2020© Reuters

In their first full season under the management of Unai Emery, Villarreal enjoyed a fairly strong campaign last year, hovering around the top end of La Liga and going deep into the Europa League.

While they were pipped to sixth spot by Real Betis on the final day of the season, the Yellow Submarine more than made up for it with an eye-catching continental run, starting with a comfortable 4-0 aggregate victory over Dynamo Kiev to reach the quarter-finals.

A 3-1 win over Dinamo Zagreb saw them reach the final four, and Emery's men would again progress with a 2-1 aggregate victory over his old side Arsenal, with an impressive clean sheet in North London seeing them through to the final in Gdansk.

Manchester United awaited in the final, and the tie went to a penalty shootout after Edinson Cavani drew the Red Devils level following Gerard Moreno's opener.

Every outfield player would score their penalties, and Villarreal goalkeeper Geronimo Rulli made no mistake with his spot kick before David De Gea missed the target to see Villarreal triumph and Emery collect his fourth Europa League title.

With the European Super Cup clash with Champions League winners Chelsea looming, the Yellow Submarine will hope to end their pre-season campaign with a victory after a series of defeats, with Emery's men falling at the hands of Valencia, Marseille and Leicester City.

Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa on May 8, 2021.© Reuters

Their opponents will also attempt to finish pre-season in a positive manner after a somewhat underwhelming run.

The Whites kicked off their preparations for the upcoming campaign with a 3-2 victory over local non-league side Guiseley, before being held to a 1-1 draw by Blackburn Rovers.

A disappointing 2-1 away defeat to third-tier Fleetwood would follow, before they fell to a 3-2 loss at the hands of Real Betis.

Last time out, Marcelo Bielsa's side again fell to a defeat in friendly action, as they were thrashed 4-0 by Dutch champions Ajax with Davy Klaassen, Perr Schuurs, Ryan Gravenberch and Danilo all getting on the scoresheet.

They now head into the final friendly with the hopes of building some confidence for the upcoming Premier League campaign, their second back in the top flight after the Argentinian manager guided them to promotion in the 2019-20 season.

The Yorkshire outfit impressed in their first campaign back, achieving a ninth-placed finish with a tally of 59 points, the highest of any newly-promoted side since Ipswich Town collected 66 pints in the 2000-01 season.

Bielsa will now take his side into their second campaign with the hopes of another top-half finish, with the chance to finish pre-season in a positive manner before next week's opening clash with Manchester United.

Villarreal Pre-Season Friendlies form:
  • L
  • D
  • D
  • L
  • L

Leeds United Pre-Season Friendlies form:
  • W
  • D
  • L
  • L
  • L

Team News

Leeds United's Rodrigo celebrates scoring against West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League on May 23, 2021© Reuters

Emery has boosted his ranks in the summer transfer window, bringing Aissa Mandi, Manu Morlanes and Boulaye Dia alongside the permanent signing of defender Juan Foyth from Tottenham Hotspur.

With a crucial Super Cup clash next week, Villarreal's strongest XI should at least play some part in Saturday's game to shake off any cobwebs, while also preserving their energy.

They will be without centre-back Pau Torres, who is with the Spanish Olympic Football team in Tokyo.

While Leeds are yet to be overly active in the summer transfer window, the permanent capture of winger Jack Harrison will certainly excite fans of the Whites.

Bielsa did add to his defensive ranks though, bringing in left-back Junior Firpo from Barcelona following the departure of Ezgjan Alioski upon the expiry of his contract.

The retention of exciting winger Raphinha could certainly be seen as a boost in itself, after the Brazilian registered six goals and nine assists from 30 Premier League appearances in his first season in Yorkshire.

He and Harrison should support the attacking duo of Rodrigo and Patrick Bamford, who hit 17 Premier League goals last season alongside eight assists.

Villarreal possible starting lineup:
Rulli; Gaspar, Albiol, Foyth, Estupinan; Pino, Parejo, Capoue, Dia; Alcacer, Moreno

Leeds United possible starting lineup:
Meslier; Ayling, Cooper, Koch, Firpo; Phillips, Dallas; Raphinha, Rodrigo, Harrison; Bamford

SM words green background

We say: Villarreal 2-1 Leeds United

While their intensity may not be at its highest with one eye on next week's clash, Villarreal have more reason to be at the races for Saturday's game, and we see them narrowly getting over the line.

The two sides come in on a fairly level playing field, but the Yellow Submarine will have an intense focus on getting ready to face Chelsea, with Saturday presenting a good chance to play themselves into form.

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