UEFA.com works better on other browsers
For the best possible experience, we recommend using Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

Villarreal visit Celtic with eyes on pole position

Villarreal CF retain hope of finishing Group E in first place as they prepare to visit the section's bottom team, Celtic FC, who are seeking the consolation of a belated first victory in this term's UEFA Champions League.

Action from the sides' meeting earlier in the group stage
Action from the sides' meeting earlier in the group stage ©Getty Images

Villarreal CF visit Celtic Park hoping to conclude their Group E campaign by overtaking Manchester United FC at the top of the standings.

• The Spanish Liga side may already be guaranteed a last-16 berth but the right combination of results on Matchday 6 could ensure they advance as group winners, thereby avoiding the first-placed teams from the other sections in the first knockout round.

• Villarreal stand level on nine points with United following the sides' 0-0 draw at El Madrigal on 25 November, the pair's second stalemate of the campaign.

• The English club have a superior goal difference – plus six to Villarreal's plus four – which means that to overtake them, Manuel Pellegrini's men must either better their result against Aalborg BK, or outscore them by two goals in the event of the teams securing identical margins of victory. Should Villarreal draw level on goal difference, they would rise above United by virtue of having scored more goals.

• Celtic FC may be consigned to the wooden spoon after losing 2-1 at AaB last time out but they have one big incentive going into their final European fixture of the season, namely to avoid posting their worst points' total in the UEFA Champions League.

• In five previous group campaigns, the Glasgow club have always recorded at least one home victory before their passionate supporters and, with just two points at present, they will need to beat Villarreal to match the five-point haul of 2004/05, which stands as their lowest to date.

• Celtic will also wish to avenge their 1-0 reverse at Villarreal on 30 September, when they succumbed to a 67th-minute Marcos Senna free-kick.

• That was Villarreal's second victory in three matches between the sides, following their earlier success in the quarter-finals of the 2003/04 UEFA Cup.

• After playing out a 1-1 draw in Glasgow on 8 April 2004 – Henrik Larsson cancelling out Josico's first-half opener – they reconvened in Villarreal where the home side, in their first season of European competition, secured their progress to the semi-finals through goals from Sonny Anderson (6) and Roger García (68).

• The lineups for that previous meeting at Celtic Park were:
Celtic: David Marshall, Didier Agathe, Dianbobo Balde, Stanislav Varga, Jackie McNamara, Stiliyan Petrov, Neil Lennon, Stephen Pearson (Liam Miller), Alan Thompson, Henrik Larsson, Chris Sutton.
Villarreal: Pepe Reina, Javi Venta, Sergio Ballesteros, Fabricio Coloccini, Rodolfo Arruabarrena, Josico (Pedro Martí), Juan Román Riquelme, Roger García, Sebastián Battaglia, José María, Sonny Anderson.

• Celtic's last home fixture against Spanish opposition ended in disappointment when they lost to FC Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League first knockout round last term. Despite leading twice, through Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Barry Robson, they eventually succumbed 3-2, Lionel Messi scoring a 79th-minute winner in the first leg of a tie that Barcelona went on to win 4-2 on aggregate.

• The Scottish champions' overall home record against teams from Spain in UEFA's club competitions reads five wins, two draws and three defeats. Barcelona, RC Celta de Vigo, Valencia CF, Real Sociedad de Fútbol and Real Madrid CF have all tasted defeat in Glasgow's east end.

• Villarreal's only other past encounters with Scottish opponents came against Celtic's great rivals Rangers FC in the first knockout round of the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League. A Juan Román Riquelme penalty and Diego Forlán strike earned Pellegrini's side a 2-2 first-leg draw in Glasgow, and Villarreal subsequently advanced on the away goals rule after a 1-1 draw at El Madrigal where Rodolfo Arruabarrena's 49th-minute goal cancelled out Peter Løvenkrands' early opener.

• Villarreal midfielder Edmílson featured as a substitute for former club Barcelona in their 1-0 home win against Celtic last season. He was also in the Olympique Lyonnais team that ended the Scottish side's UEFA Champions League hopes in 2003/04.

• Celtic manager Gordon Strachan was in the Aberdeen FC side that defeated Real Madrid 2-1 in the final of the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1983.

• Celtic's squad includes Spanish midfielder Marc Crosas, signed from Barcelona during the close season.

• The draw for the UEFA Champions League first knockout round will take place at 12.00CET on Friday 19 December at UEFA's headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. Group winners will be paired against runners-up from different sections with the second-placed teams playing the first leg at home. Clubs from the same associations cannot be drawn together.