In what could be Villarreal's toughest road test of the season, Villarreal head to the Camp Nou to take on scintillating, everything-champion Barcelona. I did not even realize there were six trophies to win in a season, but Barcelona is teaching me things. La Liga, Copa del Rey, Champions League, Supercopa de Espana, European Supercup, and the Club World Cup. An impressive resume, to say the least.
Currently, Barcelona are sitting in first place in La Liga, two points ahead of Real Madrid. They haven't lost a match on the season, and in fact haven't dropped a point at home. At the moment they are on a four-match Liga winning streak.
Villarreal have been merely trying to stay above water for the first half of the season, are finally capturing the spark, that bit of momentum that is so vital to a successful season and a European berth for next season. They have climbed into the top ten of La Liga, and finally can take realistic aim at a Europa Cup spot, and perchance even sneak into Champions League qualification.
Villarreal are on a streak at the moment, but have been decidedly horrid when playing away from El Madrigal in La Liga. After drawing with Osasuna, they lost to Bilbao, Depor, Xerez, Sevilla, and Gijon before eeking out a last-minute winner to continue Atletico's season-long embarrassment. Four points from seven matches. If you want to know where our season has sunk, look to our away matches in La Liga. It has been a train wreck. Things are going to have to turn around quickly if tomorrow is going to be respectable.
Barcelona will be coming in slightly short-staffed. Seydou Keita and Jeffren are both out with injuries, and Yaya Toure has already headed to his home country for the African Cup of Nations.
Villarreal will be without Gonzalo, which should keep us at eleven on eleven for the match. Rossi has also recovered from a sprained right ankle. The full squad:
Keepers: Diego López and Oliva.
Defenders: Marcano, Javi Venta, Ángel, Capdevila and Godin.
Midfielders: Fuster, Senna, Bruno, Eguren, Pires, Cazorla, Cani and Escudero.
Forwards: Nilmar, Rossi and Llorente.
Ibagaza, Fuentes, and Jony Pereira were left out by Valverde's decision. I am not sure I quite understand about Ibagaza, but it must mean that Valverde is focused on a traditional 4-4-2 approach to take on Barcelona's prolific offense. I think if he was planning on a 4-4-1-1 or a 4-2-3-1, he would have included Ibagaza. My lineup:
Javi Venta - Godin - Marcano - Capdevila
Pires - Senna - Bruno - Cazorla
Rossi - Llorente
I can't say I expect a win, but I think Villarreal can capitalize on their recent momentum to put on a strong showing, and challenge for a point.
The match is on ESPN360 and ESPN Deportes Saturday at 1:55pm eastern time. ENDAVANT VILLARREAL!