Preview: Espanyol vs. Villarreal

Cani: amazed by his own performance against Espanyol. - Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno

Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, Sevilla, and Valencia all won this weekend. So the pressure’s on Villarreal to keep pace with the chasing European pack. Yet another Monday night encounter, this time at the Barcelona airport with Espanyol. The boys in yellow need three points.

Villarreal took care of Espanyol 2-1 at El Madrigal, but Javier Aguirre's bunch created some problems. The scoreline should have been more lopsided but for our finishing on the night. The return of Nigerian World Cup aspirant Ikechukwu Uche gives Yellow Submarine fans hope of bagging the goals to bring three points home.

Tactics. Espanyol is a hard bunch to predict. Sergio García is as inconsistent as they come in La Liga, and he is carrying a knock, but watch out when he's on - Pablo Íñiguez learned the hard way at El Madrigal. The linkup play with their #9 is less than impressive, so the key will be to neutralize García's aerial presence. The periquitos will come out in a 4-2-3-1 with Kiko Casilla in goal and a decent enough back four. A prototypical mid-table side.

Lineups. The aforementioned García should start for the hosts, while Uche will certainly see action - whether from the outset or after the break. Another two goals conceded but from very little generated by Celta Vigo, so manager Marcelino García Toral can be pleased enough with the back four. Set pieces remain an issue, however. And it's unlikely that all three central midfielders will start once again.

Squad. Javier Aquino, Rubén Cani, and Óliver Torres are building match fitness, so only Íñiguez remains in the sick bay. Nahuel Leiva repeats in the squad, while Edu Ramos continues to spearhead the filial's wayward promotion push. Second-string right back Aleksandar Pantic is...well, somewhere.

My expected Villarreal XI: Asenjo; Mario, Dorado, Musacchio, Jokic; Manu, Bruno; Román, Moi; Gio, Uche.

My expected Villarreal bench: J. Carlos; Costa, Gabriel; Nahuel, Pina; Jony, Perbet.

Prediction. 0-2 to Villarreal. Maybe it's more of a hope than a prediction, but let's roll with it.

The match begins at 4 pm Eastern Time and airs on BeIN Sports en Español. Made for TV in some world but not mine. Endavant Villarreal!

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