Matchday seven, and Villarreal are winless. Dreams of challenging the style of Barcelona and the overspending of Real Madrid for the title have long-since slipped by the wayside, and now Villarreal are simply desperate to move out of the drop zone. This is the chance to start to turn things around. Tomorrow's challenge may be the second-easiest match of the year on paper (the only easier perhaps being when Xerez travels to El Madrigal).
Villarreal have had two weeks to collect their thoughts about the season. Hopefully, a lot of thinking has been going on. Especially by the strikers. Something drastic has to change when it comes to goalscoring. Considering all competitive action, the Yellow Submarine has not scored a goal since the 85th minute of the Athletic Bilbao catastrophe, on September 20th. That's right, nearly a month ago. If you want to try and stretch your memory back to the last time one of the forwards scored, you have to go back to the 71st minute of the Levski match (September 17th - Nilmar), and if you are only focused on La Liga, all the way to the 54th minute of the Mallorca match on September 13th.
Of course, all of the blame can't be heaped on the four strikers; the midfield has been nothing if not middling this season. Despite showing some flashes of sustained possession, there has been very little creative thought in the midfield, and basically nothing quality in terms of providing for the goalscorers.
And to make matters worse, Xerez are on a goalscoring rampage as of late. Admittedly, by "rampage," I mean scoring one goal against Malaga in their most recent match. While this may not seem to meet your definition of "rampage," if you put things into perspective, they hadn't scored a single goal in the five matches previous, so things are sizzling in Andalusia.
Villarreal have the surprising inclusion of Joan Capdevila in Valverde's nineteen. And, of course, the unsurprising exclusion of Fuentes. Escudero also missed the cut, replaced by Fuster.
Keepers: Diego López and Oliva.
Defenders: Marcano, Ángel, Javi Venta, Capdevila, Gonzalo and Godin.
Midfielders: Senna, Cazorla, Cani, Pires, Eguren, Bruno and Fuster.
Forwards: Jonathan Pereira, Rossi, Nilmar and Llorente.
Apparently Valverde determined Nilmar and Eguren to have gotten enough rest to allow them to make the trip. I wouldn't be surprised if Eguren made it into the starting lineup even if it wasn't in his best interest considering the must-win nature of this match. My predicted lineup:
Ángel - Gonzalo - Godin - Marcano
Cani - Eguren - Senna - Cazorla
Rossi - Llorente
I may as well throw out a prediction as well, as this is the best I have felt heading into a match in quite some time. Villarreal have to win this match. If they do not pick up nine points in the next three matches, there won't be anything to play for this term. I think they have the vision, though, and the heart. Xerez 0 - 3 Villarreal (Rossi, Llorente, Senna).