June 8, 2013: a full house at El Madrigal watch Villarreal gain promotion with a 1-0 win over Almeria, who subsequently make it through the promotion playoffs to reach the Primera as well.
Now, it's seven weeks later, and the two clubs meet again--this time in a friendly match at the Manga Club in Murcia. Villarreal is bringing four buses of supporters down to see the match.
We know the changes in Villarreal's side since June 8, but what of Almeria? Well, here is their roster at the moment. Gone are some of the players who were on loan last year- Gunino in defense, Falqué on the wing--and gone too is their key goal-scorer Charles, sold to Celta for €1m.
Also gone is ex-Villarreal B coach Javi Gracia,who the club didn't think would be an effective Primera coach, I guess. They appointed Francisco Rodriguez from their B team to take his place, a somewhat baffling choice, but if it works out, they will look like geniuses.
If you get the idea money is tight at Almeria, you would be correct. They have added a few new faces to the roster, all Segunda veterans: striker Rodri (Barca B) is on loan with a purchase option, Suso, a 19 year-old attacking midfielder, is on loan from Liverpool; left-winger Oscar Diaz joined from Lugo on a free; defensive midfielder Marcos Tebar came from Girona on a free (did you know Girona only paid €100 for him?); Sebastian Dubarbier, a player who is basically a left winger/second striker, came from Cordoba for nothing or next to it; and 'keeper Oscar Ustari arrived on a free from Boca Juniors.
This is a team that is going to be happy to survive in the Primera this season. Their roster looks fine for the Segunda, but there's going to be a lot of pressure on youngsters Suso and Rodri, as well as Aleix Vidal, to carry the load. Their defense was okay in the Segunda, but that may not be enough in the Primera. And with an untested coach, a lot is going to have to go right for Almeria to feel comfortable at the top level.
Of course, none of that really offers much clue to the outcome of a friendly like this, especially since the outcome is not all that important and both coaches will be more interested in assessing players than celebrating the result. It'll be interesting to see Suso, who offers lots of promise, and see how Villarreal's back line is able to cope with Vidal and Rodri.
It sounds as though Gio and Uche may suit up for this one.
What we do know is Canal 9 is providing both TV and radio, Radio Vila-real is covering the match as well, so we ought to be able to keep up to date with progress. We'll use this as a gamethread.