One of the club's biggest matches of the year will be played tomorrow on the pitch at El Madrigal, a must win for Villarreal as they welcome neighbors and direct rivals Valencia. The match has developed a real derby feel over the last few years as Villarreal CF has established itself as a top-tier team, and the matches tend to get heated. A big change this year is that one of the guys we all loved to hate when these two met up, Carlos Marchena, traded shirts permanently (something no one would ever do with him after a match between these two!). Marchena's presence in yellow should only increase the intensity of this rivalry.
VIllarreal have had the better part of the rivalry over the last few years, going 4-1-2 (with one particularly terrible loss under Valverde's leadership) and winning the last three matches between the clubs at home. by a combined 8-1 scoreline. Add to that, Villarreal have won 12 of 13 home matches since Garrido took control, and you have to think that Villarreal have the edge in the match. Of course, having the edge ahead of the first whistle means absolutely nothing.
The matchup should gain an extra spark this season, as two teams that don't like each other have been given the gift of two extra matches to face off - the clubs will meet up in December and January in the Round of 16 of the Copa del Rey.
Valencia are hurting coming in to the match. They started the season with flare, and took 16 out of their first available 18 points. And then they ran into the same wall we collided with last week - Barcelona. Barcelona only took them out by a single goal, winning 2-1, but that match has made a huge difference in Valencia's season. Beginning with the Barca match, Valencia lost three and drew one before finally being able to pick up three points last week in a home match versus Getafe. They will be looking to add to that victory, knowing that a win against Villarreal could make all of their woes disappear and put them back into a tie for third.
Part of their stumble over the last few weeks has come through injury, and this week is no different. The big-city boys are without Cesar, Juan Mata, Mehmet Topal, Jeremy Mathieu, Manuel Fernandes, and Jordi Alba due to injury. Add to that, David Albelda will miss the match due to a suspension.
The good guys have a nearly-full squad for the match, which should allow for a traditional starting eleven:
Keepers: Diego López and Juan Carlos.
Defenders: Ángel, Gonzalo, Marchena, Musacchio, Capdevila and Catalá.
Midfielders: Bruno, Borja Valero, Senna, Matilla, Cazorla and Cani.
Forwards: Rossi, Nilmar, Marco Ruben and Altidore.
Senna should regain his starting role next to Bruno, with Cazorla and Valero on the wings. Luckily Nilmar did not have to go to the Brazil-Argentina match, so he should be rested. The real question mark in the starting lineup will be Capdevila - not whether or not he will start, because of course he will, he's Capdevila - but how effective he can be as the match stretches towards 90 minutes, and whether or not he can actually make it to the final whistle. He played a very difficult match against Portugal midweek, and is surely suffering for it.
The one personnel loss we have for the match is Jefferson Montero, who could have been a valuable spark off the bench. No injury concerns, but it is a long flight back from South America!
As mentioned earlier in the week, Sidarth, me, and a few others will be joining up at Babylon Futbol Cafe in Arlington, Virginia, just outside of DC tomorrow morning.
And, as you get ready to watch the match, be sure and check out Sidarth's great, great interview over at Forza Football. Sidarth, thanks for spreading the word about Villarreal, and incredible job in the interview!
Prediction: We play them well at home. 3-1. ENDAVANT!