Astana v Villarreal background

The top two teams in Group A meet in Astana with the knowledge that one of them, or even both, could be celebrating qualification for the knockout phase.

Action from the teams' matchday one meeting
Action from the teams' matchday one meeting ©AFP/Getty Images

The top two teams in UEFA Europa League Group A meet at the Astana Arena in the knowledge that one of them, or even both, could be celebrating qualification for the knockout phase at the final whistle.

Villarreal will definitely book their place with a game to spare if they win, whereas a draw will be sufficient should Slavia Praha not win the other group fixture away to Maccabi Tel-Aviv. Astana would also go through if they win and Slavia do not; a Slavia defeat combined with an Astana win would enable both Astana and Villarreal to clinch their places in the round of 32.

Previous meetings
• Villarreal opened their sixth UEFA Europa League group campaign with a 3-1 win at home to Astana, two late goals from Cédric Bakambu and Dmitri Cheryshev giving the Spanish club the points after Astana defender Yuri Logvinenko had equalised Nicola Sansone's first-half strike.

• The teams had previously met in the 2014/15 UEFA Europa League play-offs, Marcelino's Villarreal winning 3-0 against Stanimir Stoilov's men in Astana and 4-0 in Spain. That home defeat is the heaviest in Astana's European history.

• Astana also faced Atlético Madrid in the 2015/16 UEFA Champions League group stage, losing 4-0 in the Spanish capital and drawing 0-0 in Kazakhstan. They are therefore yet to win in five matches against Liga sides, scoring just one goal.

Form guide
• Astana are unbeaten in 17 European home games (W9 D8) since that record 3-0 loss to Villarreal in the 2014/15 UEFA Europa League play-offs.

• Villarreal are undefeated in six European away matches (W2 D4) and have kept clean sheets in each of the last three. Their 2-0 win at Slavia on matchday four ended a run of five successive away draws in the UEFA Europa League group stage.

• Beaten 8-4 on aggregate by Celtic in the UEFA Champions League play-offs, Astana are playing group stage football for a third successive season: UEFA Champions League in 2015/16, UEFA Europa League in 2016/17 and 2017/18.

Highlights: Villarreal 3-1 Astana
Highlights: Villarreal 3-1 Astana

• Astana finished bottom of their section, with five points, in last season's UEFA Europa League, so they have already improved on that performance this term.

• Semi-finalists in 2015/16, Villarreal are featuring in a fourth consecutive UEFA Europa League group stage, having progressed to the round of 32 in each of the last three.

• Villarreal have progressed in all seven of their previous UEFA Cup or UEFA Europa League group stage campaigns and share with Anderlecht the record of getting through their UEFA Europa League group on five occasions.

• The Spanish side hold the UEFA Europa League group stage to final records for most games played (58) and most wins (32). They also became the first club to reach a century of goals with their 2-0 win at Slavia last time out.

Links and trivia
• The journey from Villarreal to Astana is around 5,500km.

• Astana clinched their fourth successive Kazakh Premier League title on 5 November, finishing one point ahead of perennial rivals Kairat Almaty.

• Astana's Marin Tomasov joined 1860 München in 2012, just as Villarreal's Antonio Rukavina was leaving the club for Real Valladolid.

• Suspended for next match if booked: Serikzhan Muzhikov (Astana); Jaume Costa (Villarreal).

The coaches
• Hired in June 2014, Stanimir Stoilov led Astana to their fourth successive Kazakh title earlier this month. The former Bulgaria player and coach enjoyed his most fruitful years as a player at Levski Sofia, whom he later guided to two championships – and the 2005/06 UEFA Cup quarter-finals.

• Javier Calleja took over as Villarreal's new coach after Fran Escribá's dismissal on 25 September. He represented the club as a player from 1999 to 2006, and returned as a youth coach after hanging up his boots. He was coaching the B team when he was called upon to replace Escribá.