DAVID SMITH - Thursday, April 14, 2011
Oguchi Onyewu and Twente have a massive mountain to climb on Thursday night should they hope to overturn a four-goal deficit against Villarreal to reach the Europa League semifinal round.
Twente's spectacular collapse in Spain last week saw them suffer an embarrassing 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Yellow Submarine, a result which all but guaranteed that their European campaign would come to a crashing halt.
Onyewu was given a place in the starting lineup by head coach Michel Preud'homme, and could once again be on the field from the opening whistle as the Belgian coach looks to keep his first-team players fresh for their still-ongoing challenge for a second straight Eredivisie title.
While logic would almost certainly dictate that the Tukkers hold little chance of coming back from such a large deficit, it is not without precedent as there have been three instances - the last being more than 20 years ago - of teams returning from four goals down in a two-legged series in UEFA competition.
More recent history has also seen an American participate in a startling second-leg comeback in the competition, with Clint Dempsey and Fulham returning from two goals down to eventually overcome Juventus on their way to last year's final, but few are expecting any such heroics from the Dutch team.
If they can look to any positives heading into the game, Twente can take heart in the fact that Brazilian striker Nilmar will be suspended after picking up his third yellow of the competition, and will be unable to victimize the defense after putting in two goals in the first leg.
They also have an away goal on their side thanks to a late goal from Austrian giant Marc Janko, meaning that an unlikely 4-0 win would put them through, but as Villarreal have never suffered a margin of defeat in European games of more than three goals, their chances are next to none.
In addition to Nilmar, Villarreal head coach Juan Carlos Garrido has a number of players who failed to make the trip north to Enschede; midfielder Santi Cazorla joins the Brazilian on suspension, while defenders Gonzalo Rodriguez and Angel Lopez are out for the long haul with respective fibula and ACL problems. Additionally, midfielder and team captain Marcos Senna is hobbled with an injury to his right hamstring and backup keeper Xavi Oliva is out with a sprained left wrist.
Twente have also been hit by the injury bug, with their backline particularly affected. Nicky Kuiper, Rasmus Bengtsson are both out of the defense with injuries, and will be joined in the stands by the suspended Roberto Rosales. In addition, goalkeeper Nikolay Mihaylov is still not yet ready to go, and starting forward Luuk de Jong is also set to miss the game.