Villarreal travel to hard-charging CD Numancia on Sunday, in an attempt to continue a positive start to the Liga campaign. Villarreal are coming off a difficult visit to Old Trafford where they obtained a valuable 0-0 draw in their first group matchup of the Champions League. Numancia are relieved to be finishing a deadly stretch to start the season: Barca, Madrid, Villarreal. So far, they have come through admirably, beating Barca at home, and losing in the Santiago Bernabeu 4-3 in a hard fought match.
Villarreal will present a very different front than they did against Manchester United, when Pellegrini put up a widely questioned, but highly effective, side. Marcos Senna and Santi Cazorla are expected to rejoin the starting lineup, as should Javi Venta. And, perhaps the biggest change, Nihat has returned and will be ready! Despite earlier reports that Giuseppe Rossi was fully fit, he is staying in Vila-Real, and Nihat is the one who will be ready to go for the Yellow Submarine. It seems sure that Rossi will be ready to go on Wednesday, though. Having a full strike force will feel a little unusual!
Numancia will be without former Villarreal front man Antonio Guayre, who, while spending six years in yellow, made 137 appearances and scored 17 goals.
Villarreal does bring a few injuries to Soria. Cygan, Bruno, and Cani are all left out of the squad. It is unlikely they would have seen action, but it will be good to have them back soon with the glut of matches Villarreal face in the next two weeks. Villarreal's available squad includes:
- Goalkeepers: Diego López and Viera.
- Defenders: Javi Venta, Gonzalo, Fuentes, Capdevila, Godin and Ángel.
- Midfielders: Marcos Senna, Pires, Mati Fernández, Santi Cazorla, Ibagaza, Eguren and Edmilson.
- Forwards: Guille Franco, Nihat, Llorente and Altidore.
I expect the starting lineup to look pretty familiar. I would be really surprised to see Nihat get the start, and, if he is truly ready to come on as a sub, he might to so at Jozy's expense. My starting lineup:
——Llorente (Altidore)—Guille Franco——
Prediction: The match will be very tricky for Villarreal. Numancia has shown it isn't scared to go up against the best, especially at home. They will probably play deep and try to keep the match low scoring, but they are clearly capable of moving forward and pressing for goals. Villarreal will probably start with the somewhat inefficient combo of Llorente and Franco, which will limit their goalscoring punch. This could easily be a match in which Nihat comes on when Villarreal are down 1-0 and scores a late equalizer. I would love to see a win, but unless Numancia have played themselves out over the last two matches, I expect the match to end in a draw, 1-1.