Villarreal have the opportunity to salvage a little of their dignity - the dignity that, to this point, has been left in muddy shambles all over Spain during the first five matches of La Liga. The only positive aspect of the season to this point for the Yellow Submarine has been their European play, and tomorrow is the point at which they can take a deep breath, pick themselves up, and, at least to a degree, start over. They won't be able to rid themselves of their embarrassing form to start the season, or regain the lost points (13 out of 15!), but they just might be able to stop the carnage.
The draw for Group G initially looked predictable, with the likely passage of Lazio and Villarreal. On the first matchday, Villarreal scored an expected victory over Levski Sofia, 1-0 (yes, that was back when we still expected to win matches). While things looked set for a similar 1-0 result in Rome, Salzburg pulled out the stunner with goals at 82' and 90+3' to take all three points. Thus, Villarreal and Salzburg come into the match co-leaders of the group on points and goal differential.
In stark contrast Villarreal, Salzburg come into the match in high-flying domestic form. They have played nine matches to this point, winning six, drawing two. That's 20 points. To compare: if Villarreal continue at the current rate, we will score 15 points in 38 matches. In other words, if this match comes down to momentum, we are sunk.
Valverde finally brought Fuentes in from the cold for the match, taking into consideration Diego Godin's bruised right ankle. Not a sure thing that he will make the final 18 (Valverde has switched things up a bit and traveled with 19 this time), but if he does, we will have to cross our fingers that he remembers how to play. The squad:
Keepers: Diego López and Oliva.
Defense: Javi Venta, Ángel, Marcano, Fuentes, Gonzalo and Capdevila.
Midfield: Escudero, Bruno, Senna, Pires, Cazorla, Eguren and Cani.
Forwards: Llorente, Nilmar, Rossi and Jonathan Pereira.
I have no idea who should start at this point. Senna for sure, and Santi. Gonzalo and Capdevila. As to the rest of the squad, it might not make a difference. The one suggestion I would make, although I don't think there is much of a chance, is that Robert Pires should get the opportunity to use his (admittedly many) years of experience to resurrect the confidence of the team. Perhaps he can only go 65 minutes - but even if that is the case, what is the difference in bringing on someone like Cani for the final 25, when the current option is Cani for 70 and Pires for 20?
And while at the moment it might sound a little lackluster when I say it, ENDAVANT!