Villarreal star says Manchester United are Europa League final favourites

Villarreal defender Raul Albiol says Manchester United are favourites to win the Europa League next week.

Albiol told Villarreal’s club website he is excited for next week’s game and believes his side are well prepared for the fixture.

The veteran defender said: “The final is a great game. An exciting tie that we all want to play in, but we need to get ready for it the same way that we have done with all the previous games. We need to make sure it feels natural. Being calm is importante.

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“The physical and emotional part will play an important role. We need to be strong during the game. A lot of things happen in the games and we need to be ready for everything.

“Because of their history and because of their squad, Manchester United are the favourites ahead of the final. They’re a giant in the football world. This is the first final we are going to play in. We know what our strengths are and the only way we can win is by being at our best.”

Have the mind games begun?

Albiol’s comments could be construed as mind games, but he is also speaking the truth. United are regarded as favourites, entering the game as three times Champions League winners, and won the Europa League in 2017. By comparison, this is Villarreal’s first major final.

For Villarreal, it makes sense to embrace their status as underdogs. They are used to that in La Liga too.

If all the pressure is on United then it helps them to play their normal game, as Albiol suggests is key.

They are helped by having Unai Emery as manager, who has won the Europa League three times with Sevilla, although he also lost the final once with Arsenal.

Hoping for double injury boost

Villarreal are sweating on the fitness of two players ahead of the final, winger Samuel Chukwueze and defender Juan Foyth.

Neither will play a part this weekend when they face Real Madrid in La Liga, but Unai Emery told La Nacion that he hopes to have both players in contention for Wednesday.

United are waiting on the fitness of captain Harry Maguire, while Anthony Martial and Dan James’ availabilities also remain uncertain.

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