Villarreal visits Rayo Vallecano at dusk tonight, with both sides sitting in unexpected positions in the league table. The Yellow Submarine, in the last spot that equates to safety (17th place), has to crane its neck to find Madrid's third team (11th place). A side of castoffs (Movilla, Tamudo) and Atlético Madrid spare parts (Diego Costa, Joel, Pulido) started the round only four points from a Europa League place. If not for Levante, the story of the season in La Liga.
Rayo has been surprisingly ineffective in front of its home fans (fifth-worst record), having been buoyed primarily by excellent away form (fourth-best). Let's hope that continues today.
Borja Valero returns to the Villarreal squad, a welcome playmaker in a side too often devoid of creativity this season. Hernán Pérez and Gonzalo Castellani miss out on Miguel Ángel Lotina's 19-man squad, with one player to be dropped before gametime (likely Wakaso Mubarak).
I expect a return to the 4-2-2-2 with Borja's availability:
D. López; Mario, Zapata, Musacchio, Oriol; Senna, Bruno; Borja, Cani; Martinuccio, Nilmar.
I will continue to lobby for Alejandro Martinuccio's place in the starting XI until he gets it on a consistent basis. No slight against Marco Ruben and Nilmar, but the diminutive Argentine striker has earned more minutes. So he deserves to get them, in a meritocracy.
The match begins at 1:45 pm Eastern Time and airs on DirecTV (U.S.). Look for streams. Allen, take it away. Endavant Villarreal!