Four months can be an eternity in football. About four months ago, Villarreal made heavy work of eliminating Odense BK to enter into this 2011 Champions League Group Phase. Seeded in the 2nd pot, you could have forgiven the Submarine faithful to at least get one opponent who are at the same level as themselves or lower. But the draw was a horror. First Bayern, then Manchester City and finally Napoli. Teams not only more powerful than Villarreal but also worst matchups in terms of the style of play.
From then on it has been a slowly unfolding Greek tragedy where everyone knew how it was going to end: in tears.
Injuries didn't help. The wretched string of results was not just confined to the Champions League. They are doing the same or slightly worse in La Liga.
5 losses with a goal difference of -10. No goals scored at home. Worst record in UCL for a Spanish club. This Villarreal is a cheap imitation of the 2005/6 team, the likes of which you find in Chinese markets.
Napoli have gone from strength to strength in this group taking 4 points off of Man City and a point from Bayern. Napoli lead Man City by 1 point for the 2nd place. They need a win to qualify or some help from Bayern who are away to Man City.
In the reverse fixture back in September, Villarreal lost the game in 5 minute spell of kamikaze defending early in the 1st half.
Approach and Tactics
Napoli's approach will be simple. They need a result to make sure that they advance. Walter Mazzarri will deploy them in their usual 3-4-3 with Lavezzi-Cavani-Hamsik trio up front. The way Villarreal defense is playing, it is just a matter of time before one of these three gets on the scoresheet.
Despite not having anything except for pride to play for in this game, Garrido has a dilemma or two.
How seriously does he take this game?
One can argue both ways here. The realist might suggest keeping the powder dry for the weekend's game against Real Sociedad. But the proud fan wants the team to give a good account of themselves against Napoli and may be even eke out a point to bow out with some respect.
If he does take this seriously, will it be 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1?
With Cani, Nilmar back in the fold I think Garrido should go for 4-4-2. Nilmar caused problems to Napoli in last years Europa League round 32. While Ruben is not Rossi by any means, he has the physical presence to draw a defender or two out of position. There is no point in playing a system Villarreal are not very good at, especially when the team is not in any sort of injury crisis like it was in a month ago.
The only way Villarreal gets anything out of this game is by attacking and by being positive. A 4-4-2 is just what the doctor ordered.
Allen, Sid and Ravi breakdown the game - 8 min
Lopez; Ángel-Musacchio-Gonzalo-Oriol; Bruno-Borja; Cani-DeGuzman-Hernán Pérez; MarcoR Ruben (or Nilmar)
De Sanctis; Aronica-Cannavaro-Campagnaro;Zuñiga-Gargano-Inler-Maggio; Hamsik-Cavani-Lavezzi
I was bold (aka foolish) enough to predict a draw in the podcast but after the result against Racing Santander, I cannot see how this will be anything other than a loss. 1-3 Napoli.