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Preview: Chelsea vs. Villarreal - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Chelsea vs. Villarreal - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Wednesday's UEFA Super Cup clash between Chelsea and Villarreal, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

The European curtain-raiser takes place at Windsor Park in Belfast on Wednesday night, as Chelsea and Villarreal do battle in the UEFA Super Cup.

Thomas Tuchel guided the Blues to Champions League glory last season, while serial Europa League winner Unai Emery was up to his old tricks in the continent's secondary competition.

Match preview

Sevilla, Porto, Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid were all no match for Tuchel's irrepressible Chelsea side in last season's Champions League, but the West London side travelled to the Estadio do Dragao for the final holding the underdog tag against Manchester City.

However, Pep Guardiola's gambles did not pay off - although an unfortunate injury to Kevin De Bruyne did not help matters either - as Kai Havertz's 42nd-minute strike settled the contest to see Chelsea conquer Europe's elite competition for the second time in nine years.

A brand spanking new contract until 2024 awaited Tuchel upon his return to Stamford Bridge as the ex-Paris Saint-Germain coach fulfilled Chelsea's dreams of European glory after just one half-season in charge, and his Blues outfit navigated their pre-season period without suffering a single defeat.

That run includes a 2-1 win over Arsenal and 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur in the Mind Series, although they would have been frustrated to throw away a two-goal lead in the latter, while Bournemouth and Peterborough United also fell to Chelsea's superiority.

Tuchel's side have become renowned for their defensive resolve, so it was something of a surprise to see Chelsea fail to keep a clean sheet in any of their pre-season games, and their last three UEFA Super Cup encounters have seen them lose out to Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich and Liverpool since 2012.

Emery's quest to bring European silverware and Champions League football back to the Arsenal faithful ended in abject failure, but the Gunners were one of many Yellow Submarine victims during a dominant Europa League campaign.

After taking 16 points from 18 in the group stage, Villarreal saw off Red Bull Salzburg, Dynamo Kiev, Dinamo Zagreb and Arsenal to set up a tense final encounter with Manchester United, where 21 penalties would be converted before David de Gea's miss handed Emery his fourth Europa League title.

However, Villarreal's pre-season period has been a truly forgettable affair, as Emery's side have failed to win any of their six exhibition encounters, most recently losing to Leicester City and drawing with Leeds United during a brief tour of the UK.

With the 2020-21 Europa League representing their first-ever major trophy, Villarreal will be making their debut in the Super Cup this year, but victory for the Yellow Submarine would see them become the sixth different Spanish side to win the competition, surpassing England - whom they currently share the record with at five apiece - and Emery's men are unbeaten in their last 15 continental matches.

Wednesday's battle in Belfast also marks the first time ever that Chelsea and Villarreal have locked horns in a competitive match, and while lifting the Super Cup aloft may not quite be the most coveted prize on offer, there is hardly a better way to kick off the season than with some European silverware.

Chelsea pre-season form:
  • W
  • W
  • W
  • D

Villarreal pre-season form:
  • L
  • D
  • D
  • L
  • L
  • D

Team News

Emery has said that he expects to face a weakened Chelsea side this week, with none of Mason Mount, Thiago Silva, Cesar Azpilicueta or Jorginho taking part in any of their side's pre-season matches.

However, Chelsea's international finalists have been named in a strong 24-man squad, but there is no room for Ross Barkley, Davide Zappacosta and Tiemoue Bakayoko in the travelling party.

Chelsea are understood to be closing in on a £97.5m deal to bring Romelu Lukaku back to the club and he could have been involved had he been announced and registered by 11pm on Tuesday, but Timo Werner, Tammy Abraham and Kai Havertz will continue to provide the options up top for now.

The stories of Villarreal's summer have mainly been in defence, with Juan Foyth and Aissa Mandi both joining the club on permanent deals while Manchester United-linked Pau Torres - who represented Spain at the Olympics - remains on the books.

Exciting winger Samuel Chukwueze suffered a season-ending hip injury against Arsenal in last year's Europa League semi-finals and has been left at home, while Dani Parejo will also miss out after picking up a calf problem.

Striker Fer Nino has come under fire for his challenge on Wesley Fofana - which left the Leicester man with a fractured fibula - while Gerard Moreno seeks to pick up where he left off after netting seven Europa League goals last term.

Recent COVID-19 scares have also depleted Emery's ranks in training, and it remains to be seen if Etienne Capoue, Francis Coquelin, Geronimo Rulli and Vicente Iborra will be deemed ready for action.

Chelsea possible starting lineup:
Mendy; Azpilicueta, Zouma, Rudiger; Hudson-Odoi, Kovacic, Kante, Alonso; Ziyech, Werner; Havertz

Villarreal possible starting lineup:
Asenjo; Gaspar, Foyth, Albiol, Pedraza; Yeremy, Morlanes, Trigueros, Dia; Moreno, Alcacer

We say: Chelsea 2-1 Villarreal

Villarreal and Emery have the know-how to beat English opposition having got the better of Manchester United and Arsenal last year, but their pre-season from has raised some question marks.

The expected loss of midfield maestro Parejo will be a huge blow to the Yellow Submarine, and we are struggling to see any other result than another European triumph for Chelsea, even if they are far from full strength.

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