Spartak Moskva and Villarreal both suffered opening disappointments, with the Russian side now seeking a first Group G point.
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Spartak Moskva and Villarreal both suffered setbacks to their UEFA Europa League ambitions on matchday one, the Russian side going down 2-0 at Rapid Wien while their Spanish visitors' bid to reach the knockout phase for a fifth successive year was stalled by a 2-2 draw at home to Rangers in which they twice surrendered the lead.
• The sides' only past encounters came in the 2004 UEFA Intertoto Cup third round, Villarreal winning the tie 3-2 (1-0 home, 2-2 away).
• Spartak have played 20 matches against Spanish clubs in UEFA competition. They have lost more games than they have won at home (five to four) as a result of last season's 1-3 defeat against Athletic Club in the UEFA Europa League round of 32. They did, however, overwhelm Sevilla 5-1 at home a few months earlier in the UEFA Champions League group stage – their biggest home win in that competition.
• Villarreal's experience of Russian opposition is limited to just six matches. While they have a perfect record at home, they have yet to win in Russia, 0-1 UEFA Cup defeats at Torpedo Moskva and Zenit adding to that 2-2 draw at Spartak.
• Spartak were unable to defend their Russian Premier League title in 2017/18, finishing third behind Moscow rivals Lokomotiv and CSKA. Their only European tie this season brought defeat – 2-3 on aggregate against PAOK in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round, a result that propelled them into the UEFA Europa League group stage.
• The Muscovites have played UEFA Europa League football in five previous seasons but never in the group stage. They reached the quarter-finals in 2010/11 and the round of 32 last term, when, having crossed over from the UEFA Champions League in mid-campaign, they lost 4-3 on aggregate to Athletic Club. In the other three seasons they fell at the first hurdle in the qualifying phase.
• That record win against Sevilla is Spartak's only victory in their last eight European matches at home (D3 L4). In the UEFA Europa League, qualifying included, they have lost five of their last seven matches in Moscow, the only win having come in the 2010/11 round of 16 against Ajax (3-0).
• Villarreal finished fifth in the 2017/18 Spanish Liga to qualify for Europe for the fifth successive season, all of them featuring UEFA Europa League group stage participation – and progress into the competition's knockout phase.
• The Spanish club hold the record not only for the most games played in the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final (63), but also the most wins (33) and the most goals scored (106).
• Their record away from home in 18 UEFA Europa League group stage matches is W6 D6 L6, though they are currently on an unbeaten streak of eight such games (W3 D5), the last defeat on their travels at this juncture of the competition having come at Rapid Wien on matchday one of the 2015/16 campaign.
Links and trivia
• Spartak's Luiz Adriano and Villarreal's Carlos Bacca were strike partners at AC Milan between 2015 and 2016. Italian defenders Salvatore Bocchetti (Spartak) and Daniele Bonera (Villarreal) played for the same club in 2014/15.
• Spartak trio Ilya Kutepov, Roman Zobnin and Aleksandr Samedov all started Russia's round of 16 victory over Spain at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
• A former Italian defender who remained active until he was 44, Massimo Carrera's playing career reached a zenith with Juventus in the 1990s, a series of trophy successes beginning with the 1992/93 UEFA Cup. He returned to Turin to become assistant to Antonio Conte, later serving under him for Italy before taking over at Spartak and leading them to the 2016/17 Russian title at the first attempt. His first European foray with the club ended in the UEFA Europa League round of 32.
• Javier Calleja took over as Villarreal's new coach on 25 September 2017 following Fran Escribá's dismissal. He represented the club as a player from 1999 to 2006, having started out at academy level with Real Madrid, and returned as a youth coach in 2012/13 after hanging up his boots. He was coaching the B team, a position he had held for only a few weeks, when he was promoted to the top job. Villarreal finished fifth in the Liga in his first season in charge.