It's not a visit to the back-to-back La Liga champions, as next Saturday night at Camp Nou promises. And it's not a local derbi against one of our top pursuers for a Champions League place, as Valencia's visit in a fortnight portends.
But today's match against Athletic Club at El Madrigal (11 am ET, GolTV) dare not be overlooked with more mouth-watering fixtures on the horizon. In fact, Juan Carlos Garrido has called it the "most important match of the season." Not sure I'd go that far, but I'm hoping to see that fighting spirit reflected on what may become a damp pitch.
Keepers: Diego López and Juan Carlos.
Defenders: Ángel, Marchena, Musacchio, Capdevila, Catalá and Mario.
Midfielders: Bruno, Borja Valero, Senna, Cazorla, Cani, Matilla and Jefferson Montero.
Strikers: Rossi, Nilmar and Altidore.
With the return of Marcos Senna, notwithstanding the absences of Gonzalo (red card in Gijón) and Ruben (injury), Garrido should revert to his preferred XI:
Capdevila – Musacchio – Marchena – Ángel
Cazorla – Senna – Bruno – Borja
Rossi – Nilmar
Prediction: I think our spotless record at home in La Liga may come to an end, but only in the goals against column. With Athletic's first-choice center backs out, the goals should flow at El Madrigal. I’ll say 3-1 to Villarreal, with a Senna free-kick for and Llorente header against. Endavant Villarreal!