So, the Yellow Submarine travels to Valencia in an attempt to sink the swift-moving boys of the Mestalla. If nothing else, to continue the somewhat corny metaphor, we are well below the surface, so perhaps we will have the opportunity to take them by surprise.
Need it be addressed anymore? Villarreal come in experiencing a horrid stretch, hardly having picked up a mere 4 points out of the last available 18. In the process, we have dropped a staggering 15 points behind leaders Barcelona. Villarreal now finds itself in 7th place, out of European competition for next year.
All hope is not lost, however - despite a solid month and a half of poor play across the board, we are still a mere 4 points behind second place Valencia, and within three or less of everyone else. A win tomorrow and a little consistency, and Villarreal could find itself peaking for another second-half run into Europe.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Villarreal find themselves in the hostile waters of the Mestalla (couldn't help myself there). And while we generally play well against Valencia, we can't expect things to just go our way. Valencia finds itself on the uptick, having just taken out Atletico Madrid 3-1 last weekend. And of course, we are drowning.
Serious changes need to take place. Based on the discussions in the media, all of the players have recognized what is at stake. Cazorla said we cannot fail. Nihat said this is a six-point match. But words do not mean much. As Eguren noted, the club must come out and attack from the very first moment. For weeks, now, we have played poor football to start the match, giving up opportunities without putting forth any attack, with the hope that we can withstand the initial charge. We have been playing in fear - like a club who knows it is not as good as its competition, and thus feels the need to try and play for a draw. Tomorrow, we must attack. And attack. And attack.
It won't help that we will be without Nihat and Senna. Nihat suffered from an injury during the week, and Senna will be serving out his yellow-card suspension. In addition to the two of them, Villarreal will leave Javi Venta, who is still recovering from his ankle injury, and Pascal Cygan in Vila-Real.
Valencia will be missing defender Alexis and midfielders Vicente and Miguel. Miguel will actually be out three matches, after threatening to kill a referee during the Copa match in midweek. His language was pretty harsh.
The squad looks like this:
Keepers: Diego López and Viera.
Defenders: Gonzalo, Capdevila, Godin, Fuentes and Ángel.
Midfielders: Eguren, Cazorla, Bruno, Mati Fernández, Ibagaza, Pires, Cani and Edmilson.
Forwards: Rossi, Llorente, Guille Franco and Altidore.
The lineup could go one of three ways. The most traditional would be the 4-4-2, with two defensive midfielders: Lopez; Ángel, Gonzalo, Godin, Capdevila; Cazorla, Bruno, Eguren, Pires; Rossi, Llorente.
A second option, also in the 4-4-2, would be to remove Bruno from the mix and start Ibagaza. That would be a highly attack-oriented lineup, and would leave our only real creative substitutes as Mati and Cani. I am not sure if Pellegrini would want to do that, so if he wanted to go with this type of play, he might start Cani instead of Pires.
The third option would be to go with a 4-5-1. This would basically pull either Rossi or Llorente, and put Ibagaza in the middle behind whoever is left up top. This lineup would hopefully allow Villarreal to control the midfield. The problem is that it would put a huge burden on the midfield to score. But who knows, perhaps Cazorla needs someone to give him a little responsibility to get his head back in the game.
I am not even going to attempt a guess as to how they will start out, because with the way we have been playing lately, Pellegrini could go off the wall with his lineup. Of course, the way the beginning of the last few matches has looked, he could go with the same, unproductive stuff that we have seen over the last month.
Likewise, I am not going to predict a score this time. I do not want to predict a Valencia victory, but it feels like one is highly likely the way things have been playing out as of late. So,without anything else, all I can say is ENDAVANT VILLARREAL. Let's turn this thing around.
American viewers: the match starts at 4pm eastern, on GolTV.