Preview: Villarreal travel to Huelva

Villarreal on the attack against Huesca - Thomas McIlroy

Villarreal take on "the oldest team in Spain!!" needing a win to calm the nervous Submarine fans. Only trouble is, Recre have four wins in four home matches. And we're missing Mellberg, Bruno, and Joan Oriol.

Those of you who remember Phil Ball's book "Morbo" might recall Villarreal's only mention in it, a game Phil saw against Recre when we were newly promoted to the Primera. Long ago and far away, that was.

Recreativo Huelva are indeed the oldest team in Spain, having been founded by some Scotsmen connected with mines in this area of Andalusia, but their history has been one of length more than anything else. Villarreal fans will remember we sold Santi Cazorla to them for the 2006-07 season, before buying him back the following season. And our current player Ikechukwu Uche had some great years for Recre, playing for them from 2003 to 2007 (he was the Segunda pichichi in 2005-06, leading Recre to promotion).

This is the fourth straight season for Recre in the Segunda, and so far they've been mostly a mid-table team, though they flirted with relegation last year before finishing seventeenth. So far this season, they have demonstrated a remarkably split personality:

4 home games, all wins (1-0, 3-2, 3-0, 4-2)

5 away games, four losses and a draw, with their only two goals away from home coming last week. However, they gave up five in that match.

They are in the midst of a stretch of games against the top clubs in the table at the moment. Losing to Elche 3-0 on the road, they rebounded with a 4-2 win against Alcorcon, then lost 5-2 at Girona. After playing us, their next three games are Barca B (away), Almeria (home) and Real Madrid B (away). We should have a better idea about them once they get through that stretch!

So far the kid making the local headlines has been 21-year old Chuli (Manuel Vazquez) who has scored five times already, a hat-trick against Alcorcon and two against Murcia. They also have a Polish striker, Pawel Brozek--an ex-teammate of Jozy Altidore's at Trabzonspor, I believe. It looks from their lineups as if they line up in a 4-4-2 with those two up front and a couple of attacking midfielders, Argentinian Szymanowski (yes, he is Argentinian!) and ex-Almeria cantera product Jesus Rubio Martin danger men to watch. The back line has a bunch of guys in their late twenties (except for Cifu, who's 32) and is at least passable, at home anyway. Their keeper is Alejandro Garcia, who took over as their #1 man this year after a backup role last season.

I suppose it's unlikely Recreativo will win all their home games, so this is as good a time for them to start dropping home points as any. Trouble is, Villarreal won't enter this game firing on all cylinders. Olof Mellberg keeps picking up yellow cards--his energy and intensity seem to work against him as far as Segunda referees are concerned--and he sits out this, our tenth match of the season, after picking up five yellow cards! Joan Oriol is still suspended, and so is Bruno Soriano. And Walter Pandiani is going to miss this one, too--his injury is not fully healed.

We do have Hernán Perez back, after travelling thousands of miles to sit on the bench for Paraguay as their woeful World Cup qualifying campaign continued, and the aforementioned Uche is also back, having helped Nigeria qualify for the African Cup of Nations, which means we'll lose him for almost a month early next year. Oh joy.

The match covered in Morbo notwithstanding, Villarreal have not enjoyed their trips to the Nuevo Colombino stadium. Our last win here was in November 2008 in the Primera, a 2-1 affair in which Santi Cazorla scored against his old club, Ibagaza provided what tuned out to be the winner, and Adrián Colunga scored late on for Recre. Interestingly, this must have been one of the few matches in which Rossi and Altidore started up front together. Javi Venta was in the lineup then, too.

More recently, the B team has lost here three straight times: 2-1, 2-0, and 3-1. We had a makeshift defense that day, too. Obviously Sunday someone is going to have to be drafted in alongside Musacchio--probably Lejeune--Costa and Mario will play on the wings. My guess is Toribio will partner Senna in a doble pivote, with Cani and Trigueros. As to whether it will be Uche or Hernan Perez parterning Cavenaghi, I am not sure; I expect the Paraguayan, with Uche coming on as a 60-th minute sub or something if need be.

The coaches had the usual good things to say about the opposition: coach of the Decano Sergi Barjuan says Villarreal has a good team and good players, and the home support will be critical; Julio Velázquez, for his part, admitted we had our worst half of the season against Huesca but urges calm, perseverance, and unity. He expects an open game and specifically praised their striker Chuli.

Yet again, Marca TV is broadcasting this match as one of the three Segunda matches they're showing this weekend; only Real Madrid Castilla has been on TV more often. There will be streams, though maybe not of great quality--it pays to look around. Sid will run a gamethread as usual.
ENDAVANT!!!!

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