Running laps at training on Thursday. - Robin Harris
What a difference a week makes. Not much talk of Velazquez being replaced this week after our 4-0 win. But now we go on the road to play the surprise team of the season so far, Girona.
Now that wasn't so hard, was it?
The easy conclusion in the wake of Villarreal's 4-0 defeat of Alcorcón is that if Velazquez had just played this lineup all the time (the same 10 outfield players he started the season with) we'd be in first place by now. Well, maybe. Or maybe we've back to where we were after three matches this season.
We defeated Real Madrid Castilla and Guadalajara at home using a similar lineup, and, just like those teams, Alcorcon were a club who came to play attacking football on the road. They pressed us high and made quick transitions from defense to attack, but like those other clubs their back four was not the best and Villarreal was able to take advantage.
We have also had trouble this season against teams that are content to sit back and let us possess the ball (Lugo, Murcia, Huesca), whether we played one striker or two. But what hopefully we can take from this match and translate to our play against teams like that is our confidence. And we'll need that as we travel to the Montilivi ground to take on Girona.
Our opponents: Girona's club website has an excellent history of their club. Girona FC was formed in 1930, and in its first five years whipped through the regional and national divisions until, in 1936, they qualified for the playoffs to get to the national first division. Unfortunately, they didn't make it, and that is as close as they have EVER come to the Primera. Except possibly for this season.
This is Girona's fifth season in the Segunda, and last year they nearly didn't stay up. In the off-season their leading scorer last year, Coro, moved on to Elche, and the roster didn't change much: Felipe Sanchón from Herculés and Jofre González from Valladolid being the major additions. And yet, they are doing very well, and scoring plenty of goals. 31 goals scored and only 16 given up in 17 matches is quite good; only Elche has a better goal difference.
Midfielders to watch include ex-Real Madrid cantera player Marcos Tebar, who has scored three goals for the Catalans this season after amassing exactly zero in his preceding three years there, and veteran Jandro Castro, as well as the aforementioned Jofre. Ex-Barcelona cantera graduate Benja (Benjamin Martinez) leads the club with seven goals.
Defensively, Girona rely on veterans, though I suspect David Garcia may be the only familiar face. He played for Espanyol for many years before joining Girona last season. And 33 year-old 'keeper Dani Mallo, who played for his hometown side Deportivo La Coruña, Braga, and Scottish side Falkirk before joining Girona, is now in his fifth season here and adds more stability at the back.
Girona are another team like Alcorcon that are willing to play football, not just sit back and defend. We usually do well against teams like that. On the other hand, their defense looks better, with seven clean sheets so far. And of late the goals have not been flowing quite so freely.
It is difficult to get a lot of insight from results because they have played clubs on the road that we've hosted at home, and vice versa; but though they have had a couple of unimpressive performances at home (1-0 over Racing, and a 1-0 loss to Elche, their first home loss of the season) they did win 2-0 at Xerez last time out.
Villarreal: We are again offering a promotion to enable a number of fans to attend the game, but one player they won't be able to watch in action is Marcos Senna. He picked up his fifth yellow of the season against Alcorcon and has to miss this match.
Probably, if Velazquez keeps the diamond formation, Cani will sit behind the two strikers (Uche and Cavenaghi), Bruno will take Senna's place at the back of the diamond, and Manu Trigueros and Hernan Perez, say, will make up the rest of the midfield. That is assuming Canteros is ignored again and Velazquez doesn't want to save Hernán for the 65-70 minute mark.
We learned against Alcorcón that abandoning the strict doble pivote enabled us to get from ball possession to attack much quicker, and both Cani and Trigueros linked up with the two strikers very well (two strikers, of course, being another GOOD IDEA). I don't believe playing with only one real striker up front will work in this game, either.
Another point of interest last game was the role of Javi Venta and Joan Oriol, who stayed back much more than before and were not caught out down the flanks as much as had happened previously. I expect we probably will see the same back four as usual, though since Musacchio and Oriol are both on four yellow cards would it be tempting to play Jaume Costa for Oriol? Probably not, since Oriol is a better defender.
TV for this game: Unbelieveably, this matchup between two of the top five teams in the Segunda isn't being broadcast by the Spanish networks. There MAY be a TV broadcast in Catalan, and if so it MAY be possible to stream it, but we don't know. If not, your best bet may be to listen to Radio Vila-Real over the internet and hopefully cheer our goals along with Javi Mata and company. ENDAVANT VILLARREAL!!