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Match Preview: Sevilla - Villarreal

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UPDATE: Stream available here: http://www.justin.tv/rambo_es

Three red cards. Innumerable yellows. That was the story the last time Villarreal and Sevilla met in a competitive match. The Trofeo de Carranza will never quite be the same after the fights that broke out in that match. So, does it translate into a regular season battle for second place? This match means a lot more than the little preseason trophy they were playing for last time, which would lead you to think that tempers would be held a little more in check.

Villarreal continue to flub about the middle of the season. Over the last 14 matches, Villarreal have managed 4 wins, 7 draws, and 3 losses. And not all of that was up against top-notch competition. And now we come up against the best of the best: Sevilla, Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia. The other four contenders for the league title come in order and are going to be asking - as Ray Hudson would say - serious questions of the Yellow Submarine. Now is the time that the club has to find its voice or settle for Uefa Cup Europa League glory next year.

As Kqql has so kindly pointed out, Sevilla have held their own and then some against Villarreal over the last five years. Sevilla have won four matchups, while Villarreal have only managed two. If you throw in friendlies (Sevilla with two wins) and the Copa del Rey (splitting the matches, with Sevilla advancing on away goals), it is even worse. Again, a clear statement that Villarreal have to step up tomorrow like they have not so far all season.

Sevilla arrive on a high, the second team in a row we face who bring the confidence of just having beaten Real Madrid. Sevilla recover Maresca from injury, and Luis Fabiano from suspension. Manolo Jiminez has pretty much a full squad for the match:

Palop, Javi Varas, Mosquera, Konko, Squillaci, Escudé, David Prieto, Adriano, Dragutinovic, Maresca, Fazio, Duscher, Romaric, Renato, Jesús Navas, Capel, Kanouté and Luis Fabiano

Jiminez has suggested he may go with the same lineup he brought in against Madrid, with Kanoute as the sole striker. One thing that may be playing in Villarreal's favor when it comes to who Jiminez puts on the pitch is that they have a must-win matchup against Sampdoria mid-week if they want to control their own destiny advancing to the UEFA group stages.

Villarreal, however, come in again with injury and illness problems which continue to drag the squad down. It seems no matter how many players we recover, we always are ready to lose at least as many to injury. Llorente makes his return to Villarreal's call, but Villarreal have lost Rossi and Nihat to sickness, Cani to a muscle injury, and Javi Venta to a torn ligament in his ankle. Villarreal are able to call 19 players, but just barely:

Keepers: Diego López and Viera.
Defenders: Gonzalo, Godin, Capdevila, Cygan, Fuentes and Ángel.
Midfielders: Marcos Senna, Eguren, Bruno, S. Cazorla, Edmilson, Pires, Ibagaza and Mati Fernández.
Strikers: Llorente, Guille Franco and Jozy Altidore.

Except for the front line, the lineup should look pretty typical. I think that, although Ibagaza should get the start, it will be Pires, as Pellegrini gave him a rest at midweek. So, my expected lineup:

Diego López
Ángel - Gonzalo - Godin - Capdevila
Cazorla - Senna - Eguren - Pires
Franco - Altidore

It is not going to be an easy match, by any stretch of the imagination. Sevilla are a top-tier club this year, and Villarreal seem to be able to do nothing but struggle, match after match. Senna says we need four poiints from the next two matches - in other words, three from Sevilla and one from Barcelona. I think we will be lucky to pull out a draw at Sevilla, unless we decide to step up against big-time competition. So, I will go optimistic: 2-2. And I think we just might get by without any send-offs.