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Quick Preview: Villarreal vs. Valladolid

Villarreal welcome Valladolid into El Madrigal with a significantly weakened squad. Without Llorente, who has been on fire, and without Godín, a rock in the back, Villarreal are looking especially thin if you look anywhere other than the midfield. Pascal Cygan will probably replace Godín in the back, but with him Villarreal lose both the continuity of the Gonzalo-Godín partnership, as well as a lot of the speed they need in the last line of defense. Cygan is a very intelligent player, and when he is regularly in the lineup can pull the offside trap as well as anyone. The problem, though, is he has not been out on the pitch except for the less-than-stellar matches against Poli Ejido that Villarreal are going to have to live down for the rest of the season.

Up front, Llorente will be a huge loss. He has six goals in the league (9 overall), and has been in a tight scoring battle with Rossi lately. He will be replaced with Guille Franco, who has managed two goals (vs. Aalborg and P. Ejido) this season, in admittedly less playing time. Franco is again a player who brings experience, and he definitely has his share of guile (couldn't resist). The real problem is not Franco, but the lack of anyone behind him. With Rossi and Franco starting up top, there is no one in reserve, as Nihat is still a week or two out, and Jozy did not get back to Vila-Real until Friday night after his good match against Guatemala in Denver on Wednesday.

The full squad for the match is:

Keepers: Diego López and Viera.
Defenders: Javi Venta, Gonzalo, Fuentes, Cygan, Capdevila and Ángel.
Midfielders: Marcos Senna, Eguren, Cani, Mati Fernández, Pires, Santi Cazorla, Ibagaza and Bruno.
Forwards: Guille Franco y Rossi.

Expect a defensive approach for the match, with Pellegrini probably hoping for a 1-0 victory. With the weakness in the back, and the admitted thinness up top, Villarreal will be looking to keep the back line supported with the likes of Senna and Eguren. I imagine Capdevila and Angel will be kept back a bit to provide a little cover for any mixups that occur in the middle back.

Valladolid is coming in with high confidence after a 1-0 victory over Madrid last weekend. Notably, though, they have lost every match away from home (0-5-0) this year. They bring with them loanee Damien Escudero, who has had a quiet year so far. He has started five matches, and been subbed in three times. I really have no idea if he will get the start against his future club, but it will be interesting if he does.

My predicted lineup:

Diego López
Ángel - Gonzalo - Cygan - Capdevila
Santi Cazorla - Marcos Senna - Eguren - Pires
Guille Franco - Rossi.

My predicted score: Do I go hopeful or realistic? How about both. I would love a 1-0 victory, but I am expecting a 1-1 draw. Villarreal need three points, but the last month has not been the club's best.