Villarreal hand Dia Champions League debut vs Atalanta

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Boulaye Dia has been handed his Champions League debut as Villarreal face Atalanta on Tuesday night.

The 24-year-old joined the Estadio de la Ceramica giants from Reims on a five-year contract for an undisclosed fee after passing his medical test under the supervision of Asisa, which will keep him at the Spanish elite division side until 2026.

In a 4-3-3 formation, Dia will lead the Yellow Submarine attack alongside Yeremi Pino and Gerard Moreno, while counting on support from midfielders Etienne Capoue, Dani Parejo and Manu Trigueros

He is yet to get a goal for the La Liga side since joining from Stade Auguste-Delaune, nonetheless, manager Unai Emery will be banking on him to get the job done against the Serie A giants.

Elsewhere, Algeria international Aissa Mandi and former Netherlands international of Nigerian descent Arnaut Danjuma would hope to have a feel of action as substitutes.

Nigeria’s Samuel Chukwueze is still out due to injury and as expected, he was not named in the squad to try Atalanta for size.

He has been out of action since picking up an injury during Villarreal’s Europa League semi-final clash against Arsenal, which ended 0-0 at the Emirates Stadium on May 6.

The Super Eagle underwent successful surgery on May 31 at Hospital Quironsalud in Barcelona, nonetheless, he is far from returning to action despite resuming training with the club.

“He's going a little bit slower than we wanted to and we still want to go cautiously with him,” the former Arsenal boss told the club website.

Emery also revealed his club’s ambition when they take on the Gewiss Stadium giants.

“It’s the first time that we are going to face Atalanta,” he continued.

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“They’re a team like Villarreal, with a recent history in the Champions League and growth since Gasperini arrived, he has taken them to the top four in Italy and got them into the Champions League.

“We are excited to be facing them and to start our Champions League campaign at the Estadio de la Ceramica. We want to take on the challenge of facing a great Atalanta side and show what we’re capable of doing.”

For Gian Piero Gasperini’s Black and Blues, they suffered a 2-1 home defeat to Fiorentina on Saturday.