Preview: Villarreal vs. Celta Vigo

Rafinha's once and future teammate? - Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno

Celta Vigo visits El Madrigal with ten points from its last fifteen, helping the Galicians into mid-table. Villarreal is nine points clear of local rivals Valencia, who occupy the first spot without the prospect of European football. And the Yellow Submarine still aspires to next year's Champions League, hanging just four points behind fourth-place Athletic Bilbao.

The two sides drew 0-0 at Balaídos in September, with the visitors in charge of the majority of the match. But Jony Pereira and Javier Aquino spurned clear-cut chances, and Celta Vigo keeper Yoel stood on his head. Better luck at El Madrigal for a Villarreal side in need of three points to keep pace?

Tactics. Just as I wrote about Real Sociedad, both teams play football. Celta may feature two strikers, but the focus will be on midfield mobility. Luis Enrique's Barcelona pipeline is in full force with the tricky Nolito, on-loan jewel Rafinha, and Andreu Fontas in defense. The Galicians will attack down the wings in their expected 4-5-1, but their best chance in the first leg was a Toni direct free kick.

Lineups. Spanish starlet Santi Mina may miss out due to injury, which would slightly increase the visitors' starting XI's average age from an impressive 24.5 years old against Athletic Bilbao. After Villarreal's shaky defensive performance at the Bernabéu, one would expect changes from manager Marcelino García Toral. With nine days until a Monday night visit of Espanyol, fatigue should not be a factor, and the highly-anticipated return of Rubén Cani and debut of Óliver Torres is on the horizon.

Squad. With Javier Farinós' retirement, the official squad is comprised of twenty-five players. Cani, Óliver, Sergio Asenjo, Pablo Íñiguez, and most likely Ikechukwu Uche will be in the sick bay, so Marcelino should only have two decisions to make. With Nahuel Leiva a vital cog in the ‘B' team's promotion hopes, Aleksandar Pantic is likely the only healthy scratch (to borrow an ice hockey term). Hopefully the choices become more difficult starting next weekend.

My desired Villarreal XI: J. Carlos; Mario, Gabriel, Musacchio, Jokic; Pina, Bruno; Manu, Moi; Gio, Perbet.

My desired Villarreal bench: Aitor; Costa, Dorado; Aquino, Ramos; Jony, Román.

Prediction. 2-1 to Villarreal, with the El Madrigal faithful a bit nervous until full time.

The match begins at 4 pm Eastern Time tomorrow and airs on BeIN Sports en Español. I would not bank on another scoreless encounter. Endavant Villarreal!

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