Villarreal have the opportunity to take a gigantic step towards securing a move out of the group stages of the Champions League tomorrow, as they take on last year's Danish champions Aalborg in El Madrigal in the "biggest match of the year." Villarreal are coming off their first stumble in what seems like ages, as they drew nil-nil with Espanyol over the weekend. Aalborg, though, are deep in the mire. They are sitting 11th out of 12 in the Danish SAS-Ligaen on 8 points after 10 matches, and having gone 0-2-4 overall in their last six.
Bruce Rioch recently came in as head coach at Aab . . . and he will be out soon enough. He signed a six-month deal in June, and it will not be renewed when it expires in December. He brought in a pretty style, but no results. Rioch did present a strong front against Celtic, in which he brought out a 4-1-4-1. In a different approach - and one that did not work out so well - he put out a 4-2-3-1 at home against United, and still could not score. But, with his release, turmoil, as well as poor play, would seem to reduce Aalborg's chances before the first kick is taken.
Villarreal are clearly favorites, and go in looking to take a decisive win. Increasing their hopes for the match was the news that Edmilson will be ready for the call. And it doesn't hurt that Nihat is now back training with the club - although nowhere near match fit for Tuesday.
The match could be a huge victory - predictions I have seen have been as big as Goal.com's 4-0 guess. But, to say Villarreal have not been on fire offensively in recent matches is a tremendous understatement. They have been squeaking by with 1 goal victories left and right. But Rossi should be able to go a full 90 for the first match this season, and Pellegrini is backing him. And with Diego "Zamora" Lopez backing up the Yellow Submarine's defense in the net, it doesn't take much to get full points. (side note: the sooner the Copa del Rey starts, the better, for Sebastian Viera).
Nihat, Ibagaza and Eguren will be out, which will limit Manuel Pellegrini's options a bit, but not enough to make a difference in the outcome. Predicted lineup:
Angel - Godin - Gonzalo - Capdevila
Cazorla - Senna - Edmilson - Mati
Rossi - Llorente
Prediction: Finally, Villarreal should have the opportunity to find that offensive spark. Aalborg have lost last year's character, and playing on two fronts has stretched them too thin. A trip to Vila-Real is pushing their limits, and it will show tomorrow. Villarreal 3 - 0 Aalborg.
And for what it's worth, how does a little respect feel? Oh so good.