Villarreal's B team probably won't get a lot of attention this week, certainly not the attention it deserves, but the Mini Submarine takes on Las Palmas at the Mini Estadi on Saturday, sort of an appetizer to the Valencian derby to follow at the Mestalla.
Julio Velasquez's men continue to play well and are ten points above the relegation zone and a season-high 13th in the table, so should be safe as long as the first team can so its part in remaining in the Primera! On paper this is a very even matchup, except that Las Palmas are coming in with no wins in six matches and only three road wins all year. The islanders have the second-highest average attendance at home (though 10,000 hardly looks impressive in their cavernous stadium) but struggle before away crowds. Of course, Villarreal's B team plays before the smallest home crowds in the Segunda, so....
Our opponents: The Pio Pio were a regular presence in the Primera for many years, but since the late 1980s have been mostly a Segunda team---which certainly doesn't help the strained budgets of other teams in the division having to fly to the Canary islands for one match a year.
The Las Palmas attack is led by two local boys, Vitolo (Victor Machin Perez) and Jonathan Viera, with nine and eight goals respectively.. However, Vitolo is suspended for this match after picking up a yellow card against Huesca. As for Viera, he will certainly be leaving the island in the summer for the Primera. It's been rumored a deal with Valencia has already been worked out, though this has been denied. Regardless, I can't imagine he's going to be terribly motivated the rest of the season, especially with the team having nothing to play for.
In Vitolo's absence, maybe we'll see 35-year old Javi Guerrero. A product of Real Madrid's system, those of you with long memories may remember him playing for Racing in the Primera, or perhaps Recre during their short stay there. Another Madrid product is Portillo, who actually scored 5 goals in 10 appearances in the 2002/03 season for the merengues but flamed out after that.
The Las Palmas defense is only average, and while Villarreal B's defense has given up one more goal on the season, the Pio Pio have given up 14 goals in their last 9 games, the Mini Submarine 7.
Villarreal B: With César suspended for the match in the Mestalla, Diego Mariño will be with the first team, so Jorge steps into the nets. And Jaume Costa will be with the first team again. Lucas Porcar returns from suspension, but other than his inclusion (for Iriome, I suppose) and the goalkeeper change I expect the lineup to be the same as against Numancia.
Trivia: when we played in Las Palmas in December, our only goal in a 3-1 loss came from Thiago Dutra--practically the only positive thing he did for us. He's now playing for a Serie B Brazilian club, Criciúma.
Prediction: I doubt there will be much of a crowd to see it, and probably no TV streams, but I'm looking for a home win here. 2-1 to Villarreal B.