Villarreal return to El Madrigal tomorrow to take on lowly Numancia. Villarreal are not likely to be favored, though, based on their recent form. In the last 11 Liga matches, Villarreal have managed to pick up 10 points. It has been the squad's worst stretch ever under Manuel Pellegrini.
Numancia too are in a rough run of sorts - they have lost four of their last five matches, and are struggling just out of the relegation zone. Of course, their last three matches have been Sevilla, Barcelona, and Madrid, so losing those is to be expected. Unfortunately, you know that they are looking at the trip to Vila-Real as the winnable match in the death run that the schedule provides everyone in La Liga.
Pellegrini has called on the team to turn things around, and called on the fans to support them until they do. Eventually, and I know this line is getting old, the team is going to turn things around. All of the skill is there, the leadership and experience is there - it is the winning mentality that is buried somewhere.
Numancia are going to be hungry, and they will have most of their squad available to them. They will be without midfielder Txomin Nagore and forward Asier Goiria Etxebarria, who are both suspended, and they will be missing forward Antonio Guayre through injury.
Villarreal only have two forwards for the match - Rossi and Llorente, as Nihat is still out for two weeks, and Guille Franco is still suffering from his rib injury. That is not necessarily a bad thing, though. This year, Llorente and Rossi have started together for seven matches, and in those seven matches, Villarreal have not lost. Of course, only three of those seven were wins, but it is still something. The full squad includes:
Keepers: Diego López and Viera.
Defenders: Javi Venta, Ángel, Gonzalo, Fuentes, Godin and Capdevila.
Midfielders: Marcos Senna, Eguren, Santi Cazorla, Pires, Ibagaza, Cani, Mati Fernández and Bruno.
Forwards: Rossi and Llorente.
Pellegrini tried out a few different formations during the practice week, which might indicate a change in starting lineups for the match. One of the changes from last week should be expected - Angel and Gonzalo back in the rear line, replacing Venta and Fuentes. Also, in a more interesting switch, we might be seeing Bruno and Eguren in the middle, giving Senna a break on the bench. Finally, there is word of either Pires or Mati coming in as substitutes for either Rossi or Llorente, if needed. Something need to change to get our momentum back - perhaps the lineup might be the key.
My idea of the starting lineup:
Ángel - Gonzalo - Godin - Capdevila
Cazorla - Eguren - Bruno - Ibagaza
Rossi - Llorente
How many times have I said that Villarreal have to win a match? Well, this is one of those times. A win, at home, against a team deep in the relegation battle, is an absolute necessity. Whether it takes a completely revamped lineup, a completely new gameplan, or even going into the match pretending we are down a goal, we have to come in with a hungry attitude. I will go back to a prediction this week - and this is a risk, I know, but I think we keep a clean sheet, and I think we win by two goals. Villarreal 2-0 Numancia.