After a last-gasp win against Levante last Saturday (I know, it feels like it was a month ago) Villarreal has a chance to practically seal a spot in next season's Europa League. Malaga for their part would all but secure next season in La Liga with a win.
Malaga are on a decent run of form with 3 wins in the past 5 matches. The Submarine seems to be on the mend after a bunch of bad results coinciding with the return of Cani to the line-up and it is likely that Giovani starts up front vs. Malaga.
In the home leg of this match-up at El Madrigal, Villarreal took a 1-0 lead into injury time only to give a goal off of a corner on the very last play of the match. It was a deflating loss against a team that was struggling at the time. The circumstances are in stark contrast this time. Málaga is playing well with confidence (despite the loss at San Mames) and are scoring a lot of goals of late, which was a big problem for them early on in the season.
Roque Santa Cruz's return to line-up has eased their goal scoring woes a bit. He leads the team jointly along with midfielder Ignacio Camacho with 5 goals apiece. Impressive teenager Juanmi has four. These 3 along with the excellent goalie Willy Caballero are the most important players for Málaga.
The key for Villarreal will be to take control of the midfield and not let Camacho and Darder control play. In recent games we havent been able to have the kind of control in the midfield that is necessary to have consistent success. While both teams are fighting for something, clearly Malaga is the more desperate side. For Villarreal this is a golden opportunity to score points looking at their rivals in the last 4 games of the season.
Giovani dos Santos is likely to start along side Jeremy Perbet upfront for Villarreal. I doubt we will see many changes apart from this.
Squads and Projected XIs
Villarreal 18 : Asenjo, Juan Carlos, Mario, Musacchio, Jokic, Costa, Gabriel, Bruno, Pina, Trigueros, Aquino, Cani, Oliver, Moi, Gio, Perbet and Jony
Malaga 18 : Kameni, Jesús Gámez, Flávio, Antunes, Camacho, Portillo, Santa Cruz, Iakovenko, Pablo Pérez, Willy, Angeleri, Rescaldani, Duda, Eliseu, Amrabat, Samuel, Juanmi y Sergi Darder.
Villarreal 4-4-2 : Asenjo; Mario-Musacchio-Gabriel-Costa; Oliver-Bruno-Pina-Cani ; Gio-Perbet
Malaga 4-2-3-1 : Willy; Gamez-Flavio-Angeleri-Antunes ; Darder-Camacho-Samuel-Perez-Amrabat; Santa Cruz
Be prepared for an open game as both teams will go for a win here as a loss wont mean an end of the world but a win would be so huge for either.