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Match Preview/Result: Villarreal 2-1 Athletic

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Juan Carlos Garrido calls February a make-or-break month for Villarreal CF. Either the Yellow Submarine will tread water in 2009-10, with the possibility of a mass exodus of players after the World Cup, or the season can be salvaged. So here come our direct rivals for the top six, most visiting El Madrigal, and a 1/16 final Europa League tie against a struggling VfL Wolfsburg side (currently 12th in the 1. Bundesliga). And it all starts tomorrow against Athletic Bilbao.

Based on the B team squad, Garrido will call up midfielder Javi Matilla, defender Mateo Musacchio (for his debut), and striker Marco Ruben. Per Kenez, Matilla may start in place of the suspended Bruno; I think Musacchio and Ruben are cover for Gonzalo/Godin and Nilmar/Rossi, respectively. Recall that Joseba Llorente also is suspended, while Santi Cazorla is out with injury and Joan Capdevila and Diego Lopez are doubts.

Strangely, the A team squad has yet to be announced. Here's how I expect (hope?) the starting XI will look:

Xavi Oliva
Javi Venta – Gonzalo – Godin – Capdevila
Escudero – Matilla – Marcos Senna – Pires
Nilmar – Rossi

And don't forget about the B team's marquee match at league leaders Hercules; it's a Valencian derby to boot. New manager Paco Herrera just wants the team to keep on rolling. For his first match in charge, he will be without the aforementioned Matilla, Musacchio, and Ruben, along with the suspended Robert Flores, but defenders Mario and Kiko return to the squad. That match is at 12 noon Eastern time tomorrow, and I expect a stream on rojadirecta. It should be a nice warm-up to the A team game at 4 pm Eastern time on GolTV.

Finally, going down another level, Villarreal C goalkeeper Diego Marino will train with the Spanish U-21 squad next week. You may recall that he was the third-string goalie at the U-20 World Cup in Egypt. Great to see the cantera taking full flight.

I predict a 1-1 scoreline at El Madrigal; goals by Nilmar and Toquero. Let's hope I am wrong. Endavant Villarreal!