Deportivo La Coruna and Villarreal always have struck me as sister clubs. "Super" Depor set the bar extremely high for smaller Spanish clubs in the 1990s and early 2000s, winning La Liga in 1999-2000 and finishing as runners-up 4 times in a 10-year span. This period also included a Champions League semifinal appearance, 2 Copas del Rey, and 3 Spanish Super Cups. Remarkable, really.
Then along came little Villarreal CF from Castellon de la Plana. Villarreal has finished above Depor in the league table in each of the last 5 seasons, also reaching the Champions League semifinals in 2005-06 and finishing as runners-up in La Liga in 2007-08. Also quite remarkable. To keep this streak alive, Sunday's match at El Madrigal is a must-win for the Yellow Submarine.
Depor are built in the mold of recent Villarreal sides: a frugal budget, top-class manager in Miguel Ángel Lotina, and stars from the Americas, including Brazilians Filipe Luis (out for the year with a nasty leg break) and Juca and Mexican international Andres Guardado (center backs, keep an eye on him). The "first leg" in Galicia finished 1-0 to Depor on a cracker of a free kick from Juca.
Here is the 18-man squad for tomorrow's match:
GKs: Diego López and Xavi Oliva.
Ds: Ángel, Javi Venta, Gonzalo, Catalá, Godin, and Capdevila.
MFs: Marcos Senna, Bruno, David Fuster, Escudero, Ibagaza, Cani, and Pires.
Fs: Llorente, Nilmar, and Marco Ruben.
Escudero is back in the squad (or out of the doghouse, as some here might say); hope he gets some minutes. Marco Ruben is in the squad; let's see if his call-up is permanent once Rossi returns. The big news is the call-up of José Manuel Catalá, who started the year with the C(!) team. Congratulations to him; that is quite an achievement (but what does it say about our defense?). Catalá is in the squad in place of Musacchio, out with a muscle injury. Let's hope it's not serious, as Musacchio has acquitted himself well so far.
The match will be on ESPN Deportes and ESPN360.com at 10:55 am Eastern time. We need these 3 points, and I think we will get them. 2-1 to Villarreal on goals from Nilmar and Fuster. Endavant Villarreal!