Villarreal vs. Hércules: The Mini-Derby

Hércules can't afford Trezeguet anymore, but they still have quality up front. Ojo.

Villarreal's focus returns to the Segunda División with Sunday evening's visit of local rivals Hércules Alicante. The Yellow Submarine's Copa del Rey woes continued with a 0-2 loss to Ponferradina, while the visitors also bowed out 2-0 to Sabadell. Away manager Mandiá has been issued an ultimatum by the chairman, so expect his players to come out fighting at El Madrigal.

Hércules is arguably the Comunitat Valenciana's second team, having spent twenty years in the Primera. And this year's version is full of quality, featuring Braulio (talented but troubled), Edu Bedia (ex-Racing Santander), Portillo, and Sardinero (ex-Getafe) going forward. Juan Carlos has supplanted Falcón in goal, while former 'B' team right back Pere Martínez and club captain Paco Peña spearhead the back line. A solid group that expected to be competing for promotion.

Three successive losses to start the season, however, derailed the parade plans in Alicante. Last weekend's home win over Girona provided a brief respite, but a Villarreal victory on Sunday would give us a ten-point lead for an automatic promotion spot on a prima facie main rival. An important match for both sides.

Julio Velázquez has selected his eighteen-man squad:

Keepers: J. Carlos, Mariño.
Defenders: J. Oriol, J. Costa, Mario, Mellberg, Musacchio, Truyols.
Midfielders: Senna, Bruno, Moi, Cani, Trigueros, Hernán, Toribio.
Strikers: Cavenaghi, Pandiani, Uche.

Expect less experimentation in the starting XI than in Wednesday's cup tie. Chamorro and Lejeune are with the 'B' team for Sunday's visit to Sant Andreu, while Bordas, Canteros, and Rossi remain injured. The main surprise: Javi Venta is omitted, likely due to fatigue, so Mario Gaspar should start at right back.

Hope the match lives up to the billing. See you tomorrow, groguets.

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