A depleted Villarreal, with internationals Mariño, Hernán Pérez and Uche all away, and Bruno and Joan Oriol suspended, takes on Huesca at El Madrigal. Don't expect tons of goals in this one, folks.
Villarreal's unbeaten record is gone, and the Yellow Submarine needs to rebound against Huesca this Saturday in El Madrigal. Problem is, scoring won't be easy, with international players such as Uche and Hernán Pérez called up for international duty, Pandiani (and Rossi, of course) injured, and Cavenaghi in a bit of a funk of late. Where are the goals going to come from?
Our opponents: SD Huesca is a team from a smallish town in Aragon (about Vila-real's size, 50,000 people). Their history is less noteworthy than our own, but just like us they don't do well in the Copa del Rey (never past the third round).
The club was resurrected in 1960 by a group of Barcelona supporters, which is why the club looks like their blaugrana counterparts (or what their counterparts looked like before Nike got creative!). The club joined the Segunda in 2008-09 and has stayed there--Rubén Castro, on loan to them, led them to a best-ever 11th place finish.
How many Spanish players can you name who scored in double figures in the Scottish Premier League? if you're like me, probably none, but Huesca has a guy who did that--Nacho Novo. Before Javier Clemente chased him out of Gijon, Novo played for many years in Scotland, starring for Raith Rovers, Dundee and Rangers and finishing in double figures five times. Now 33, Novo has returned to his boyhood club and has scored once so far.
But if you think Villarreal has had trouble finding the net, consider Huesca. In their first four matches, they scored one goal each time, good for a win, two draws, and a loss. In their last three, they haven't scored at all, but have notched two draws and a 1-0 loss. (Their fifth match was a truly bizarre 4-2 away win at Lugo; I have no idea how that happened).
Atleti loanee Borja Gonzalez and veteran Sharjah-born Tariq Spezie are their other strikers, and have some ability for sure, and midfielder Camacho scored 11 times for them last year. So far this year, though....
Where Huesca does excel is in defense. Only Real Murcia and Lugo have been able to score more than one goal against them this season. Veteran keeper Luis Garcia (ex-Getafe, Zaragoza, etc.) has played well, and the (mostly experienced) defenders in front of him have kept things tight. Even last week, when 36-year old Luis Helguera was sent off in only the 16th minute, Huesca were able to keep Girona off the scoresheet.
Our club: Until Bruno's sending off, Villarreal looked terrific against Sporting, though there was this small matter of actually putting the ball into the net. Juan Carlos gets the call in goal for sure; I expect Musacchio to return and partner Mellberg, and then it's Jaume Costa and Mario Gaspar on the wings. With Bruno out, probably Toribio joins Marcos Senna in the doble pivote, and Manu Trigueros and Cani (assuming he is fit) get starts as well. But then what? Or whom? Cavenaghi has to start, Bordas might, or maybe Moi Gomez, depending on whether Bordas has recovered from his injuries? We just don't have a lot of options up front for this one.
Prediction: In spite of that lack of firepower, I have bravely forecast a 1-0 win in our quiniela, I might as well admit. But to be honest I have no certain belief as to how we get there!
UPDATE: Pandiani is in the squad! Wouldn't expect him to start but still...
The team is:
Keepers: Juan Carlos, Jorge Palatsí.
Defenders: Mario, Musacchio, Jaume Costa, Mellberg, Javi Venta , Lejeune.
Midfielders: Toribio, Cani, Trigueros, Marcos Senna, Tito Canteros, Moi Gómez , Pablo González.
Strikers: Cavenaghi, Pandiani, Gerard Bordas.