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Match Preview: Deportivo v. Villarreal

Short preview today.

Villarreal travel to Galacia to take on a dangerous, up-and-coming side in Coruna in a battle between what have become direct rivals for Europe. Deportivo sit in 8th place, just four points behind Villarreal in what is amounting to a very tight battle for the final Uefa Champions League place and the Europa league spots.

The last three matches seems to show a pivot in the form of the two squads. Deportivo, after a great run of form, have lost three consecutive. In an attempt to resurrect what was a sinking ship of a season, Villarreal have managed a draw (Valencia), win (Mallorca), and a draw (Osasuna) in their last three - not sizzling performances, by any means, but (and this is saying something), better than they had been.

Depor are without three important players - Rodolfo Bodipo (forward), Pablo Amo (defender), and Andres Guardado (midfielder). But injuries are also taking their toll on the Yellow Submarine. Villarreal suddenly feel very short on offensive firepower, short three strikers. Although Nihat has been a long-term concern, they have also lost Rossi for at least this match to an ankle injury, and have now loaned out Jozy for the rest of the season. That leaves precious few reserves in the attacking front for today's match, and possibly some very interesting configurations on the pitch. But they did pick up Joan Tomas for the weekend, which, if Rossi takes a little while to recover, could happen a few times over the next month, and possibly give him his first Primera pitch time.

Villarreal will also be short Bruno Soriano, who received his fifth yellow card last week. Villarreal's squad:

Keepers: Diego López and Viera.
Defenders: Javi Venta, Gonzalo, Fuentes, Godin, Cygan, Capdevila and Ángel.
Midfielders: Marcos Senna, Santi Cazorla, Pires, Ibagaza, Mati Fernández, Eguren and Cani.
Forwards: Llorente, Guille Franco y Joan Tomás.

I expect Cygan to be left out of the final 18, but that will not affect the game plan at all, as it would take a decimation of our back line for him to find his way onto the pitch. As I mentioned before, I could see a chance for Mati Fernandez to get a start, after turning down an opportunity in Moscow during the week. He scored the last time the team traveled to play Depor, and Villarreal do not have a clear second forward in the match. In all likelihood, it will be Ibagaza starting behind Llorente, but I am keeping my hopes up. Here is my predicted lineup (keeping in mind that even if Pellegrini officially goes with a 4-4-2, based on the available players, it will be in essence a 4-2-3-1).

Diego López
Javi Venta, Gonzalo, Godin, Capdevila
Santi Cazorla, Marcos Senna, Eguren, Pires
Mati Fernández, Llorente

I definitely expect Santi Cazorla to have a big match - his months-anticipated turnaround. Villarreal are desparate to win the match, but it will not be easy. Deportivo have their backs to the wall and are going to come out fighting in the extremely difficult confines of El Riazor. Again, no prediction today, outside of a big match from Santi and a start for Mati. Okay, one more prediction - even if Mati does not start today, he does score. Vamos Villarreal!