Villarreal have finally found a bit of consistency under Ernesto Valverde's designs. It seems that Valverde turned the sub around just in time, and previous widespread talk about his demise has quieted. Although Villarreal will appreciate the bit of calmness that has come over the last few weeks, suspensions and injuries threaten to knock to yellows back off of form. It doesn't help that we are going up against Sevilla, a team that always seems to have our number.
Villarreal travel to the Sanchez Pizjuan against the high-flying Sevilla side that currently sit in third place on 19 points through nine matches. Sevilla haven't quite been able to keep up with Barcelona and Real Madrid's title chase, but can't be too bothered as their play has at times been scorching, both in La Liga and the Champions League. They lead their group in the Champions League with 10 points on four matches. Other than a couple of respectable losses at Valencia and at Depor, everything has been going their way in Spain, and it was Sevilla's defeat of Madrid that really got the fire going under Manuel Pellegrini.
Sevilla face a number of injuries themselves, having lost Duscher (M), Dragutinovic (D), Koné (F), De Mul (M), Fazio (D) and Acosta (M) for the match. Their 19-man roster includes keepers Palop and Javi Varas, defenders Sergio Sánchez, Konko, Escudé and Squillaci, midfielders Adriano, Fernando Navarro, Lolo, Romaric, Renato, Zokora, Jesús Navas, Perotti, Capel, José Carlos, and forwards Negredo, Luis Fabiano and Kanouté.
I am very interested to watch Negredo play against Villarreal. Many people feel that Villarreal should have paid a few extra million euros and obtained Negredo over the summer to have a stronger striker up front. He has scored three this season so far for Sevilla.
Villarreal are suffering in the injury department. The long-term injury of Ariel Ibagaza still has not allowed him back on the pitch, and more recent injuries to Santi Cazorla and Marcos Senna have taken some of Villarreal's most reliable players off the pitch. Joseba Llorente sprained his ankle against Lazio, and is facing two to three weeks on the sidelines. Two players, Diego Godin and keeper Diego Lopez suffered tweaks during the midweek match, and it is unclear if they will be able to start today. Throw in the remaining match for Nilmar's suspension, and Villarreal's traveling squad feels extremely thin. To compensate, Valverde has had to call up a couple of B-teamers to get a full 18. Also affecting Valverde's choices is that Villarreal have to be ready in 48 hours to take on Puertollano in the must win return leg of the Copa tie.
Keepers: Diego López and Oliva.
Defenders: Javi Venta, Ángel, Capdevila, Godín, Gonzalo and Marcano.
Midfielders: Eguren, Cani, Bruno, Pires, Escudero, Fuster, Marcos Gullón and Hernán Pérez.
Forwards: Jonathan Pereira and Rossi.
*Names in bold are call-ups from the B team.
Considering I would not be surprised if Diego Lopez was kept on the bench to make sure that a niggling groin injury doesn't become a serious one. I could also see Robert Pires getting a break. Although this match is probably more important than Tuesday's match against Puertollano, Pires has seen a lot of minutes over the last couple of weeks, and his 36-year-old bones are probably a bit tired. I would rather see a fresh Pires on Tuesday than a ragged Pires today against the quick Sevillan wingers. It will also be interesting to see how Valverde does with just two forwards in the lineup. He could definitely use Hernan Perez as a backup if he wanted to stay with his typical 4-4-2, but he could also go with a 4-4-1-1 with Fuster slotting in behind Rossi. My (always wrong) guess for the lineup:
Javi Venta - Godín - Marcano - Capdevila
Cani - Eguren - Bruno - Escudero
Sevilla tends to dominate Villarreal, especially in Seville. Last year, Sevilla won both matches, 1-0 in Seville, and 0-2 at Villarreal. The year before, Villarreal managed a 3-2 victory at El Madrigal, but it was another clean sheet for Sevilla, 2-0 at the Sanchez Pizjuan.
This match is not going to be easy. Sevilla have a powerful attacking front, and Villarreal are holding themselves together with a couple of pieces of duct tape considering all the injuries. Playing in Seville doesn't make things any better. I would be very surprised if Villarreal could get a victory, and very, very happy to walk away with a point.
For those of us in the US, the match is on GolTV at 3pm eastern.