Villarreal face a long (train!) trip to the ancient city of Cordoba for a Sunday night match that could be crucial to our promotion chances. If teams around and ahead of us have won their matches, the Submarine will need to pull off one of its best results of the season to keep pace.
Our opponents: Cordoba CF spent eight seasons in the Primera, the last being 1971-72, and since then have bounced around the lower divisions. Last year they qualified for the Segunda playoffs, finishing sixth, but failed to advance beyond the first round.
This year, Los Califas are flirting with the playoffs again. Similar to Villarreal, this team is offensively challenged, but defensively tight, with 32 goals scored and 27 allowed in 27 games. (Villarreal has found it tougher to score on the road, though--only nine goals all season away from home--and Cordoba have only allowed eight goals in their New Archangel stadium).
Cordoba's defense has been anchored by Juan Fuentes and ex-Villarreal B man Kiko Olivas, who evidently has been playing better for them than he was able to do with us. That's perhaps a bit unfair, because Kiko always seemed the odd man out when playing for the first team was concerned, but his form for the B team was never good enough to merit consideration--Truyols and Lejeune got first-teams chances ahead of him.
The team's midfield fetures ex-Castellon man Lopez Garai and ex-Cadiz men Carlos Caballero and Lopez Silva, who have played together for many years. They will have a big miss in the center of the pitch, with Pedro suspended for this one, so probably ex-Granada man Abel Gomez gets the start.
Up front, in the absence of Villarreal loanee Joselu, Victor Rennella and Sebastian Dubarbier (six and two goals, respectively) should feature.
In goal, Alberto Garcia has been a constant.
Villarreal: News this week has been dominated by Cani's injury; he's out for at least a month. It appeared Hernán Pérez might return to the squad, as he has been training well; he scored our first goal when these two teams met back in September, a shot that was nicely fumbled by Alberto, but Marcelino has confirmed he and Juanma are both still out, as is Marcos Senna, so expect Farinós and Bruno again in the pivote. Olof Mellberg returns to the squad after injury, and Moi Gomez has recovered from his injury problems this week.
Last time: The last 30 minutes of the September match were played 10-on-10 after Joan Oriol and Lopez Silva were sent off, but to be honest the match could easily have ended 0-0 if Alberto had not spilled Hernan's shot (Pandiani added a second in injury time). I remember Dubarbier as being fast but more of a fouler than anything else, and their midfielders picked up three yellows as well. But, their defense was not really tested that much by us.
Prediction: It's hard to see many goals in this one. The game could turn on a goalkeeping error or stupidly-conceded penalty, I expect. The oddsmakers seem to have Cordoba a slight favorite; I think a draw is perhaps more likely, and I wouldn't be terribly surprised if Villarreal snatch a victory. But I'm going with our favorite 1-1 draw.