UPDATED BELOW (TWICE)
image courtesy villarrealcf.es
Villarreal will take on storied Liverpool tomorrow evening at 9:30 local time at El Madrigal (8:30 in England, 3:30 eastern time). This will easily be Villarreal's toughest match to date, after three early matches against Navata (0-12), Vilamalla (0-10) and Reus (1-1). Liverpool are coming off two wins and two draws to date in its preseason (@Tranmere 0-1, @Lucerne 1-2, @Wisla Krakow 1-1, @Hertha Berlin 0-0). It will be a matchup of football beauty (Villarreal, of course!) and football pingpong (Liverpool's heartless, artless, lob it down the field style of play).
Villarreal come in with a significantly weakened side, but should have a strong enough team to complete with the Champions League semi-finalists. Rossi and Altidore are away at the Olympics, and Nihat is out until October, leaving our 5-man strike force in tatters. The Spanish contingent of Senna, Cazorla and Capdevila will begin training again tomorrow, but are coming off a month-long break after being crowned champions of Europe, and will not be available. Further, Fuentes is not expected to play, since is in the lineup, despite the fact that he is just off 100% in his recovery from knee surgery.
So, who is left? The squad will look like this: (expected starters denoted by *)
- Keepers: Diego Lopez*, Viera
- Defenders: Javi Venta*, Ángel, Cygan, Gonzalo*, Godín*, Bruno*, Fuentes
- Midfielders: Mati, Pires*, Cani*, Ibagaza, Edmilson*, Eguren*, Jordi Pablo (toss-up between Cani and Ibagaza, while Mati will probably not start because he was limited last week in practice)
- Forwards: Llorente*, Franco*, Joan Tomas
Needless to say, the squad is stretched thin. There are only four seven field subs, so Pellegrini will have to be creative. I do not know if we have kept any of the B squad players around. Joan Tomas and his goal-scoring prowess sure would will be nice! (As will some cover in midfield with Jordi Pablo).
Benitez brings a deeper squad to Spain. On hand, he will have at least the following players (I think)
- Keeper: Diego Cavalieri, David Martin
- Defenders: Stephen Darby, Daniel Agger, Jamie Carragher, Emiliano Insúa, Andrea Dossena, Sami Hyypiä, Martin Škrtel
- Midfielders: Jermaine Pennant, Damien Plessis, Jay Spearing, Yossi Bennayoun, Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso
- Forwards: David N'Gog, Robbie Keane, Fernando Torres, Dirk Kuyt,
Sooo....a little outnumbered? Unfortunately, Pepe Reina will not be with the squad, as his wife is giving birth to their second child (good for him, bad for the game!). And Liverpool fans seem to be going crazy over the signing of Robbie Keane. And Steven Gerrard is back from a nick.
Bad news is that I could not find a live stream anywhere that did not cost money, although I am guessing you could find it on myp2p.eu and similar sites. SkySports will have a score tracker, but those are of course somewhat under-fulfilling.
UPDATE: I meant to put this quote in previously, but I forgot. Benitez had very kind words to say about Villarreal in a news conference yesterday:
Yes I think that Villarreal is a very good team. The board is really good, the chairman is fantastic and everyone has been doing a fantastic job for them over the past few seasons. That’s the reason they are in the Champions League and why they were near the top of the league in Spain. They are a good example for small teams. I remember them from when I was in the Second Division. It is a fantastic club.
So, a prediction? Liverpool have not been in top form as of late, but Villarreal's embarassing draw against Reus puts us in that same category. We have the advantage of El Madrigal and not having to travel, but it will be a very tough match. I know we have the talent to outdistance Liverpool, but I do not know if we will have the depth. I am expecting a 2-2 draw. Should be a great match. I will have a recap and highlights here as soon as I get the chance. ENDAVANT VILLARREAL!