After a solid 3-0 victory over Dinamo Zagreb which qualifies Villarreal for the Europa League knockout stage with a round to spare, El Submarino Amarillo faces direct rival Sevilla in league play at El Madrigal on Sunday. Los nervionenses (so named after a district in Seville) have struggled in Europe this season, crashing out of the Champions League and now in danger of missing the money rounds in the Europa.
Ex-Mallorca manager Gregorio Manzano took the helm after the Braga debacle, but things have not improved perceptibly. A Villarreal victory tomorrow would give us a 10-point cushion, a significant gap after only 14 rounds. But looking at Sevilla's squad, one wonders how such a loaded team is struggling so mightily.
While Sevilla has lost three straight, Villarreal is unbeaten in three and on the year at El Madrigal. A very winnable match on paper, but beware of a wounded animal. Capel and Perotti can run our fullbacks ragged, so a team effort on defense is required.
Garrido's 18-man squad sees the welcome return of Capdevila from injury:
Keepers: Diego López & Juan Carlos.
Defenders: Ángel, Gonzalo, Marchena, Musacchio, Catalá & Capdevila.
Midfielders: Senna, Bruno, Borja Valero, Cazorla, Cani & Jefferson Montero.
Strikers: Rossi, Nilmar, Altidore & Marco Ruben.
Back to the typical XI, featuring the in-form strike duo:
Ángel – Musacchio – Marchena – Capdevila
Borja – Senna – Bruno – Cazorla
Rossi – Nilmar
Prediction: Villarreal has dominated this rivalry recently at El Madrigal, and which Sevilla will turn up is anyone's guess. But any team with Kanoute and Negredo up front poses a constant danger, so expect a flowing match. Our central midfielders should control the tempo, so I’ll say 3-2 to Villarreal, with Rossi and Santi on target.
And don't forget about Villarreal B's vital match away to Nastic this afternoon. A loss would mire Javi Gracia's men in the relegation dogfight and may cost the manager his job. Typical starters Iago Falqué and captain Marcos Gullón are unavailable, so the B team will have to take care of business shorthanded.