The first of two important matches in Vila-real this weekend features Jose Molina's Villarreal B hosting Xerez Club Deportivo, Saturday at noon EST. It is being shown on Canal Nou Dos so hopefully there will be a stream available.
Pour yourself a glass of sherry (since Jerez de la Frontera is the center of the Spanish sherry industry, and the name sherry is derived from the name of the town) and I'll tell you a bit about Xerez. One obvious question--why is the team called Xerez and not Jerez? Well, someone more adept in the history of the Spanish language than I could explain this better, but Xerez is the old spelling, since in medieval Castilian the "sh" sound was represented by an x. Why the football team adopted this spelling in the 1960's, though, I'm not sure!!
Anyway, there is not much footballing history to tell about. As you might expect given the sherry connection, Englishmen traveling to the area to arrange exports of the wine brought football with them, and in the early 20th century there was even a "Sociedad Jerez Foot-Ball Club" with an English squire as chairman, player, and captain all in one. Team meetings were presumably very interesting.
History against Villarreal:
The present club traces its beginnings to 1947, and for most of its history was a third-level team, generally going straight down again when promoted to the second level. But in 2001 the team was promoted to the Segunda, and has remained there, except for one solitary season in the Primera, 2009-10, when they defeated Villarreal 2-1 in a match early in the season (matchday 7) that left Villarreal in 20th position in the table at that point.
Interestingly, the Xerez goals that day came from a corner kick and a horrible back pass that Diego Lopez cleared to a Xerez player who promptly chipped the ball over his head and into the net. I don't remember much about the game (have tried to forget) but there was a brouhaha after the match, the referee was branded incompetent by most of the Villarreal coaching staff, and the pressure on Valverde to resign intensified.
By the time March rolled around and we hosted Xerez, Juan Carlos Garrido had taken over. Villarreal won 2-0, the last goal coming in injury time by Damián Escudero (the only one he scored for Villarreal, I believe). By year's end, Xerez had been relegated along with Tenerife and Valladolid, though they were in with a chance of staying up until the last matchday.
Xerez did okay last year, finishing in eighth place, but never really threatening the promotion positions. This year they've struggled to score goals (15 in 16 matches) but their defense is decent (20 goals allowed). But, like us, they're going through a purple patch, with only one win in their last six matches. And, they've just fired their coach: club legend Vicente Moreno (who started out with Valencia B, as did our coach Molina, but later) has taken the reins from Juan Merino. We'll be hoping the "new coach" syndrome doesn't work well on the road
The present Xerez squad mostly has players who have served with other Segunda teams, but there are a few names that are familiar: goalkeeper Toni Doblas played for Zaragoza last year (and played quite well in El Madrigal, I seem to recall), midfielder Capi had a long stretch with Betis in the Primera, and you might remember Robusté was on Levante's roster last year.
But the Villarreal connection here is José Mari, who spent four years with the Submarine (2003-2007) and is best remembered for winning that penalty against Arsenal. We all know how that turned out. Anyhow, he's scored three goals for them this season (17 last year) and given the rule that Villarreal Old Boys always score against us, I'm expecting him to notch his fourth of the season on Saturday!
José Molina has an almost full-strength squad, though he must be wishing he had Joselu available for this one, instead of in the call for the first team. Dorian Dervite misses out through injury, otherwise the missing players are Mano, Thiago Dutra, Chiki Guerrero, Jordi Pablo--manager's decisions.
Goalkeepers: Mariño and Jorge.
Defenders: Kiko, Truyols, Toño, Carlos Tomás, Jaume Costa, Lejeune and Pere.
Midfielders: Castellani, Lucas Porcar, Marcos Gullón, Iriome, Toribio, Pedro Vázquez and Llorente.
Forwards: Kike López, Airam and Gerard.
To put it bluntly, Molina's team has lost its way-- the disjointed display last match in Las Palmas was just as inept as some of the worst performances from last season under Javi Gracia before he was let go. Even Marcos Gullón was well below his best.
A good performance against Xerez, and, more importantly, three points, is vital, because some of the other teams languishing just below us in the relegation places have good chances to pick up points this weekend.
I'm going to say we will win 2-1, with goals from Iriome and Airam to offset Mari's goal for Xerez. Let's do it!!