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Match Preview: Villarreal - Valencia

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There really is not that much to say about this match (but of course I'll find something!). This is it. If either Villarreal or Valencia want a chance to participate in the biggest club competition in the world next year, a win in this match is vital. Lose this one, and you have to hope to hang on in the Europa League spots. Of course, a win here is not everything - Atletico have to lose this weekend or next (with this weekend much more likely, traveling to San Mames) for either Villarreal or Valencia to dream of the Champions League after tomorrow night. And a draw really does nothing worthwhile for either team.

Villarreal finally seem to have found a positive run of form after living through a season rife with near misses and embarrassing blowouts. Villarreal have won three of their last five, and have picked up momentum in the last two matches with a last second draw against Barcelona and the last gasp win against Madrid.

Valencia could have put the fourth Champions League spot away weeks ago after winning five straight then drawing with Barcelona. But then their Jekyll and Hyde personality began to show, as they were destroyed 3-0 to Espanyol, won 3-0 over Madrid, and then played horribly in a 1-0 loss against Atletico, giving Atletico the leg up in the race for fourth.

All of the pressure of this match, and then you throw in the fact that it is the closest to a derby that either squad has, and things really start to look fiesty. When they met earlier this year, Valencia took a 2-0 advantage early, before Fuentes began the comeback at the end of the first half. Joseba Llorente and Giuseppe Rossi finished the comeback for a 3-3 draw. Over the last three seasons, Villarreal have won three, lost one, and drawn one with Valencia.

The referee presents an interesting picture as well. There is a huge disparity of results for the two squads when matches are officiated by Udiano Mallenco. Villarreal have gone 7 wins, 7 draws, and only three losses in front of Mallenco, while Valencia have found themselves on the wrong end of too many results in front of hiim: 4 wins, 3 draws, and 8 losses.

Valencia face serious injury woes as they travel the 65 km north to Vila-Real. They have known for a while that midfielders David Silva, Vicente Rodríguez, Manoel Fernandes and Hugo Viana were going to be out. Now they have learned that they could be without defender Emiliano Moretti, and possibly winger Joaquin.

Villarreal face no new injuries, and will have essentially a full squad available:

Keepers: Diego López and Viera.
Defenders: Javi Venta, Gonzalo, Ángel, Capdevila, Cygan, Godin and Fuentes.
Midfielders: Eguren, Mati Fernández, Pires, Ibagaza, Cani and Bruno.
Forwards: Nihat, Rossi, Llorente and Guille Franco.

They do face a lot of danger for the away match to Mallorca at the end of the season in terms of yellow card accumulation. Guille Franco, Ángel, Llorente, Pires, Fuentes, Gonzalo, Eguren and Rossi are all one card away from suspension. Of course, the last match doesn't mean nearly as much if we can't win tomorrow.

I figure Villarreal will go in their traditional 4-4-2 lineup, especially with Pellegrini saying today that he does not want to alter Villarreal's style for the match.

Diego López
Javi Venta - Gonzalo - Godin - Capdevila
Cani - Eguren - Pires - Ibagaza
Rossi - Llorente

I am devestated that I will not be able to watch the match - but it is scheduled to be on GolTV tape delayed at 5pm. The match actually starts at 3pm eastern, but GolTV is showing Barcelona - Osasuna. Streams should be available at rojadirecta.com. A caveat, though - expect a lot of jumping back and forth with the Sevilla and Atletico matches.

Nothing else to say...ENDAVANT!