After a disappointing draw in Barcelona last weekend against Espanyol, Villarreal now return home to take on lowly Xerez in a match in which three points are absolutely mandatory. We all remember the shocking 2-1 loss to Xerez in the early stages of the season. That was the match, at least for me, in which I realized there were real problems in the squad, and that the run of form to that point had not just been a red herring. Of course, the way we lost the match did not help!
Villarreal are coming off two clean sheets. Last week's draw to Espanyol will probably be looked at more as a lost opportunity, as we should have won the match, but the positives in the defense have to be recognized. At the moment, we are 183 minutes clear from the last goal scored against us ('87 vs. Madrid; before that goal, we were a full 8 minutes clear...). Even though we have not been perfect, this has been the best defensive stretch to date this season, and we need to build on it. Of course, Xerez are coming off an impressive 4-goal performance away to Malaga, so they will be coming in with hot boots and an idea of getting to Villarreal early.
Speaking of Xerez's recent run of form, they have taken four points from their last two, including their own draw (1-1) against Espanyol. Prior to that, things had been in a bit of a rough patch, as they lost three straight to Bilbao, Madrid, and Deportivo. And, of course, there has also been the rough patch that has been the rest of their season, outside the match against Villarreal.
Villarreal do not appear to have any serious injury concerns outside of Santi, who is not yet back. They will have essentially a full squad for the match.
Keepers: Diego López and Oliva.
Defenders: Ángel, Javi Venta, Capdevila, Marcano, Gonzalo, Godin and Catalá.
Midfielders: Senna, Bruno, Ibagaza, Pires, Cani and Escudero.
Forwards: Rossi, Llorente and Nilmar.
This should be an interesting weekend lineup-wise, as we are going to see how Garrido feels about a couple of things. He stressed that he was very comfortable with the play of Senna and Bruno in the midfield, so we can expect them to stay there. He also said that Rossi cannot yet go 90; I would expect him to get the start, with a plan on substituting for him, considering last week's goalless effort from Llorente and Nilmar. And obviously, assuming Godin is match-fit, we will see Capdevila, Godin, and Gonzalo in the back.
Right back is at issue, but is a simple situation: whether Angel's solid play for two weeks has earned him a continuing role back there.
What I am most interested in is his attacking midfielders. Villarreal have not played poorly over the last couple of weeks, but you get the impression that Garrido is not fully satisfied. Namely, according to Garrido, they have failed to control possession and link up as well as they could. One way or another, changes are coming. If nothing else, David Fuster will not be available, as he is suspended based on accumulation of yellows. I foresee a return to Cani and Pires. Pires has hardly seen the pitch lately, and Cani played well after he came in last weekend.
Angel - Gonzalo - Godin - Capdevila
Cani - Bruno - Senna - Pires
Nilmar - Rossi
Hopefully Villarreal can follow in the footsteps of Villarreal B, who on Saturday evening secured a 0-2 victory over Rayo Vallecano and are in 7th place in Segunda A.
The match is on GolTV at noon - and as Sidarth warned, don't forget to set your clocks forward an hour as you lose an hour of sleep tonight!