Sheffield Wednesday: What the Owls are up against as they take on Villarreal

Santi Cazorla
Santi Cazorla
Have your say

Sheffield Wednesday are poised to do battle with a man who has 77 caps for Spain, cost more than £30 million in transfer fees and almost lost a foot during two years of injury hell.

The Championship Owls wrap up their pre-season campaign tomorrow with an Hillsborough outing against Villarreal who finished fifth in La Liga last term.

Scoring for Arsenal

Scoring for Arsenal

In the Spanish side's line-up could be Santi Cazorla, the former Arsenal playmaker who is looking to prove his fitness after finally overcoming the Achilles problem doctors feared would end his career.

Cazorla has had 10 operations since sustaining the injury in a Champions League clash for the Gunners against Ludogorets in October 2016 and was close to an amputation at one stage when gangrene set in.

He stepped up his comeback with a midweek outing for Villarreal in France against Montpellier and, if there are no after-effects, is expected to feature against Wednesday as he bids to earn a contract with his former club before the new La Liga season kicks off on August 18.

With their own opening day only a week away, the Owls, who were disappointing in a 2-1 Tuesday-night defeat at League Two Mansfield Town, are likely to field a strong team against continental opposition.

Steven Fletcher has been progressing well in training

Steven Fletcher has been progressing well in training

"They are in the top division in Spain so it will not be an easy game for us," manager Jos Luhukay said. "It is a good final warm-up for us going into the new season."

Villarreal finished behind only Barcelona, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid and Valencia as they booked their place in the 2018/19 Europa League.

But Luhukay is hoping that home advantage and the fact his squad, who returned from their summer break in June, are further into their preparation than the visitors will work in Wednesday's favour.

"It is difficult to say what sort of game it will be," he added. "They have not been in their pre-season long, maybe two or three weeks.

"They have started later than us so we don't know what team they are going to start with. They may have a different team in each half.

"It will be the first time we have played at Hillsborough in a while. It is always nice to play in front of your own fans."

The boss, whose side begin their second-tier campaign on August 4 at Wigan Athletic, shrugged off the Mansfield loss as he looks to build on pre-season successes against Bury, Lincoln City and NAC Breda

"Things can happen but I think we are going in a good direction," Luhukay said. "Every game can give you new impressions.

"But we must look forwards and we will try to have a good performance on Saturday ahead of the first game against Wigan."

Cazorla and co will present a stern test. The 5ft 6in midfielder made 180 appearances for Arsenal, scoring 29 goals, after moving to North London in 2012 for £15m from Malaga who had paid Villarreal £17.5m for his services a year earlier.

Luhukay was giving no clues about his starting 11 but one player hoping to feature at some stage is striker Steven Fletcher.

The Scottish international hasn't played a competitive match since sustaining a knee injury last December.

But he made a 45-minute appearance in a behind-closed-doors clash with Bradford City on Tuesday and could be ready for his first public action of 2018.

For more news from Hillsborough click here