Villarreal's road to redemption does not get any easier, as they travel the few hours west to Real Madrid and the Santiago Bernabeu. Both clubs are coming off European disappointment, and will have to attempt to rebound with Liga points to regain momentum. It will be a decidedly tough match for the Yellow Submarine, short on first team defenders and arriving in a stadium in which they have never won.
Juan Carlos Garrido's infinitesimally brief chance for a honeymoon with the A team is long gone after a few winnable matches. His first shot at victory came understandably short, as the club fell away to Mallorca, a team that had not dropped (as of then) a point on the island all season. The next match, against Athletic Bilbao, the club began to demonstrate his style of play and took all the points in a hard fought (and costly) match. Midweek, Garrido had the opportunity to show the importance of the Europa League, and fell dismally short in the 2-2 draw, sucker punched by his own defense. And now, after those reasonably easy matches, he will be thrown into the fire.
Perhaps even more difficult for him, he must now go up against former Villarreal manager, and permanent Villarreal hero, Manuel Pellegrini. I think we can all expect an article in the papers on Monday analyzing the differences in success that Pellegrini had over many seasons with what Garrido has in the match. Probably won't be a fair comparison....
Madrid are not flying as high as they would like. Pellegrini has the club playing some of the most flowing football they have played in years, but it still isn't satisfying everyone in Madrid, as he has not yet already locked up La Liga, the Champions League, and the Copa (likewise, they are loudly complaining because he has not instituted necessary measures to guarantee a win in all three of these competitions in each of the next 10 years as well). Yet the midweek 1-0 loss to Olympique Lyon has the clubs supporters wringing and wrenching their hands, as it could be another early exit for the club from European competition. They are also under pressure from Barcelona, who won handily today and moved five points clear in first place. That being said, Madrid are sitting on four consecutive wins in La Liga, and have shown no signs of slowing down on that front.
Madrid are without Karim Benzema who strained his groin, as well as Royston Drenthe and Guti. They have regained the services of Rafael van der Vaart, though, and shouldn't have trouble finding a quality eleven players with which to set up the chess board. Madrid's squad:
Keepers: Casillas, Dudek.
Defenders: Sergio Ramos, Albiol, Arbeloa, Metzelder, Marcelo, Garay.
Midfielders: Diarra, Gago, Lass, Xabi Alonso, Granero, Kaka, van der Vaart.
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Raul, Higuain.
Villarreal are desperately short on defense, and have to be wondering what it is that they are about to get themselves into. There is a likelihood that three players who three weeks ago were full-timers with the B team will get the start, and a possibility that you could add a fourth (Matilla) to that list. Bringing a B team to the Bernabeu is normally not the best option for a team, no matter how strong that B team might be.
The team is without Godin due to suspension, and without Gonzalo due to his own suspension a leg injury (sorry - habit!). In their places, the red-card-prone Kiko, and the up-and-coming Musacchio. Boys, it's time to grow up in a hurry! They will also have Marcano in central defense, but after his red midweek (I mean, seriously) do you really want to see him with the start?
I think this might be a perfect time to give Ruben a start alongside Nilmar. Obviously, Ruben doesn't have the experience (and no, in case you are wondering, he did not play against them when he was with Recreativo Huelva). But he is young and wants to prove himself, has been scoring goals all season for the B team, and is coming off an important goal against Wolfsburg midweek. Why not role the dice?
Here is the squad:
Keepers: Diego López and Oliva.
Defenders: Javi Venta, Ángel, Marcano, Capdevila, Kiko and Musacchio.
Midfielders: Senna, Bruno, Cani, Pires, Ibagaza, Fuster and Matilla.
Forwards: Llorente, Nilmar and Marco Ruben.
And here is my preferred lineup:
Javi Venta - Musacchio - Marcano - Capdevila
Cani - Senna - Bruno - Fuster
Nilmar - Ruben
This one is going to be tough. I don't know if we have the proverbial snowball's chance in hell, but why not give it a go and see what we can come up with?
The match will be shown on ESPN360 at 2:55pm. ENDAVANT!