Villarreal opens its expanded version of El Madrigal with tomorrow's match against Deportivo La Coruña at 11am eastern, airing live on GolTV for American viewers. Villarreal hopes to turn its middling 1-1 draw away to Osasuna into momentum against a seemingly resurrected, Europe-bound Depor side. Deportivo brings thoughts of greatness with them, after defeating Madrid 2-1 in the Riazor.
Last season, Villarreal handled Depor, if not easily, at least effectively. Matchday 19 went in favor of Villarreal 4-3, with an 80th minute penalty by former frontman Tomasson being just enough to hold off a 90th minute goal for Deportivo. Matchday 38 was a little easier, with Villarreal handling the Galicians 0-2, with goals from Mati and Guille. But, as Capdevila pointed out, this is not the same Deportivo as last season. "Right now they are very strong, and are not the same side who came here last season. They have benefited from a change in system and they have high hopes. They will come here looking to pick up a positive result and we hope to make the most of home advantage to beat them.''
Despite earlier reports that Pellegrini would be in Chile with his sick mother, thus missing his first match in five years with the Yellow Submarine (except the two for which he was suspended), his mother is doing better, and he is expected to be pitchside Sunday. That should be good for the club, as he will have to maneuver around a couple of injury woes, as well as Godín's suspension.
Injury report and lineup below...
Injury Report: Villarreal will definitely be without Nihat, and Pirés and Rossi are almost assuredly out, hoping to be ready for Wednesday's megamatch against Rossi's former club United. And as mentioned above, Godín is out having picked up a red card giving up a penalty to Osasuna two weeks ago.
The good news is that Guille, Cygan and Ángel look to be recovered from their knocks, and will be available. Also, Eguren, Mati and Gonzalo have all returned in time from their matches in South America to be ready to start.
Deportivo come in without any injuries or suspensions, but manager Miguel Ángel Lotina has announced that he will rest star Andrés Guardado, who performed for Mexico twice over the last week.
Many Americans who might not otherwise tune into a Villarreal match will be looking for the nearest bar showing GolTV this weekend, as it could be Jozy Altidore's first televised appearance for the Yellows. With only Guille and Llorente available, and Guille recovering from injury at that, Jozy could very well see action as a sub in the second half. It doesn't hurt that he is coming off last Friday's friendly against San Rafael in which he put together a hat trick.
- Keepers: Diego López and Viera.
- Defenders: Javi Venta, Ángel, Fuentes, Gonzalo, Cygan and Capdevila.
- Midfielders: Edmilson, Senna, Cazorla, Bruno, Cani, Pirés, Ibagaza and Mati Fernández
- Strikers: Guille Franco, Llorente and Altidore
Projected Starting Lineup: There are a lot of variables with the injuries/suspension this week, which make projecting a squad especially hard. I would really be surprised to see Guille and Llorente starting together, considering their impotence when working on the pitch together - but if they do start together, it is almost a certain precursor to the apperance of Jozy in the 65th or so. If both do not start, it will probably be a 4-2-3-1, or a patchworked 4-4-2. I expect either formation will look pretty similar, with Ibagaza as a withdrawn striker.
Eguren is not listed as being with the squad, but I think he may be available. If he is not, Edmilson should take his place in the midfield.
On the defensive side, it is a question of Fuentes, Edmilson, or Cygan in the central defender role. I expect it to be Fuentes, with Cygan coming off of injury (and being primarily a role player this season), and it not being Edmilson's natural position. But, I really expect Edmilson to make it into the match, if not as a starter in place of Eguren, then at least as a sub, either in central defense or as a defensive midfielder - the team needs to get him going, and Senna and Eguren (if available) are going to be a bit worn out after their national team performances.
Prediction: So, does Villarreal aspire to greatness this season? Are they looking ahead to the midweek fixture? Is Deportivo really at a higher class than they have been in the recent past? Does Villarreal move towards the top of the table early in the season, or will they play the deadly game of catch up throughout? A lot of questions will be answered this weekend. I expect it to be a very difficult match. Who knows...an Altidore winner? Villarreal 2-1 Deportivo.
Check back here for a liveblog, and a stream if I can find it, if you do not have access to GolTV.