Happy 2010, everyone. VillarrealUSA is about to return to its regularly-scheduled, post-holiday posting, but until then, here are a couple of news items as Villarreal gets ready to travel to Barcelona and the Camp Nou.
Thanks to all the new members of the VillarrealUSA penya for signing up. The rosters are growing nicely. Those who haven't yet signed up, get on it! And you want to know how official we are these days? Go to villarrealcf.es, the official website, click on the button for myvillarreal.com, the official online community, and look for the link to this site. Two clicks from the team's official website...not bad!
Good news and bad news when it comes to preparation for the Barcelona match. The good news: no Messi. Lionel Messi was given permission to return late from Christmas break in order to let him get some extra rest, and Villarreal is the primary beneficiary.
The bad news: unfortunately, the other players given permission to take extended leave - Diego Milito, Dani Alves, and Maxwell - all decided to come back early and will be with the Catalans for the match. Likewise, the Mexican defender Marquez was not expected back but surprised the club and showed up early. Also, it appears Iniesta has recovered from injury and will be with the club.
Barcelona will be without a couple of other players. Seydou Keita and Jeffren are both out with injuries. Yaya Toure has already headed out for the African Cup of Nations.
Villarreal's injury scene is not too bad. Ibagaza should be well-rested after missing the last few matches of 2009. Although he might not have played in the league matches, Gonzalo has not recovered from a hamstring injury, and is out for another two weeks. He will miss the league matches against Barcelona and Almeria, and the Copa match against Celta de Vigo.
And a worrying rumor: Manchester United is keeping its eye on Villarreal B mainstay, and Villarreal first team future star, Matilla. Apparently he has a fairly low buyout clause, since the rumor is that it would only take 2.7m pounds to pry him away, which is way too low of a price tag. Hopefully Villarreal can remedy this and get Matilla ready for next year - the way Eguren and Senna are looking this year, Matilla could be a starter next to Bruno next year.
Fabricio Fuentes will probably be on his way out shortly. It is a shame the way his tenure has ended, as he provided a couple of years of solid play and strong leadership. He is expected to head back to play in Mexico after understandably getting frustrated with the way Villarreal has handled him this year.
Villarreal's match against Barcelona is available on ESPN360 on your computer, or ESPNDeportes for those of you who have Spanish-language programming.
Also, it isn't confirmed yet, but Villarreal should be on GolTV next weekend against Almeria in the 4pm eastern Saturday timeslot. Sidarth and I are going to try and organize another gathering at Summer's for the match, so stay tuned. If anyone else is planning on heading out to a bar for the match and is interested to see if any other local fans are interested in meeting up, drop me a line at maddi [at] villarrealusa.org and I will post it here.
Happy New Year, and ENDAVANT VILLARREAL!