Martinuccio looked good in yellow on Sunday, and with Ruben out he's likely to start again at the Romareda
Coming off the debacle in Mallorca, pretty much everyone had to be better than on that day, but I'll choose three:
3 Up: Alejandro Martinuccio: Our January acquisition made his first start for Villarreal and acquitted himself well. His finishing let him down a couple of times, but he worked tirelessly and gave us an attacking spark we'd been lacking.
Nilmar: the Brazilian started on the bench but came on late in the first half. In 50+ minutes he seemed closer to his old self than we'd seen in a long time. He scored the tying goal on a rebound of a Martinuccio shot, but shortly before that he made an incredible run only to pull his shot wide of the far post with the keeper beaten. I'm not sure that trying to play balls into the box for him to head, as we tried a few times, is the best use of his talents though!
Diego López: Our keeper will blame himself for Athletic's second goal, but he more than made up for that solitary error with a string of incredible saves toward the end to preserve an important point. Not to mention his save in the first half from a deflected free kick. In addition, he was far more confident and in control of his area than last week.
Honorable mention: the ageless Marcos Senna, of course!
3 Down: Marco Ruben: His battles in the first half-hour with Javi Martinez were entertaining, yes, but between his injury and the defender, Ruben was unable to make any impact on the match. Not his fault he's in this list, merely a reflection of the realization we'll miss him for a game or two.
Iglesias Villanueva: Even given the overall standard of referees in La Liga this season, this guy stands out as one of the poorest we've seen in a long time. Ander Herrera fouled Senna four times in the first sixteen minutes and should have seen a card for persistent fouling, and Villanueva allowed a number of questionable challenges from both sides. He also ignored a possible penalty against us on Llorente, but the final ten minutes or so were his worst, as he failed to punish clearly illegal challenges on Hernán Pérez and Borja Valero that left both limping from hard kicks on the ankle.
The Spanish media, of course, has devoted many column-inches to the shortcomings of Perez Lasa and Borbalan in the Barca and Madrid matches over the weekend, but Iglesias Villanueva was worse. Let's hope we don't see him again (though it seems we say that every week, doesn't it!)
Garrido favorites: Yet again, Wakaso Mubarak missed out on the squad, and Mario Gaspar's limitations were cruelly exposed last week. Catalá was supposed to be available at the end of January and is still on the injured list, and one wonders if either of these three will play for the first team in the remaining matches.