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Result: Villarreal 4-2 Valencia

Two Evenly-Matched Sides Meet Again

When it comes to the Copa del Rey, Villarreal fans have learned to expect little over the years. We've never enjoyed anything close to a cup run; two quarterfinal appearances, with the last (in 2007-08) ending in defeat by Barcelona. Hopes were high that this year would be different, but the round of 16 draw did us no favors, matching us with local rivals and seven-time cup winners Valencia. And Nilmar's absence certainly complicates things. Frankly, if we were playing any other team, I suspect Villarreal players, coaches and fans might be less interested in the cup at this point, especially with a trip to the Bernabeu only three days away.

However, Villarreal fans, perhaps justly so, feel "disrespected" by the Valencia media, and recent incidents among both coaches and club functionaries when the teams met in the league at El Madrigal (though thankfully played down before the last match) give some clue as to the passions involved. With all this, and Valencian Community bragging rights at stake, the yellow squad and their supporters would love nothing better than to advance to play Sevilla in the round of eight.

And, to be honest, Los Che have gotten under Villarreal's skin a little bit; they remain the only team to take points off the Submarine at El Madrigal, and while honors were shared at the Mestalla in the first leg of this cup tie, Villarreal came away without the precious away goal they so desired. Unai Emery's 4-5-1/4-3-3 defensive setup has frustrated Villarreal to date, and it will be important for Juan Carlos Garrido and his players to figure out some method of cracking it in order to progress--and without Nilmar and Senna up front, and Marchena at the back, the task will not be easy.

On paper, Valencia is a solid, serviceable squad, though hardly a match for Sevilla or even Atletico -- but their fourth place league standing is evidence of their excellent team play and coaching. Valencia football is not always pretty, but it can be effective. Count on more of the same excellent commitment and workrate from them. Leading scorer Aduriz is suspended, but Soldado figures to start up front with support from Mata and Joaquin, and Valencia's defense, which stymied Villarreal in the first leg, figures to be strong again. Stankevicius and Costa are sure to play important roles in front of goalkeeper Guaita, who has taken over since Cesar's injury.

These teams have demonstrated they're evenly matched, so one or two individual incidents--from set pieces, especially--could decide this. Villarreal needs to come out strongly and score first; should Valencia take the lead, the odds would have to be against the Submarine overcoming the away goal and scoring the necessary two to move on. El Submarino Amarillo should feature essentially the same starting lineup as against Almeria on Monday, though Mussachio should partner Gonzalo in central defense rather than Catala, and we will see Juan Carlos in goal again--he was outstanding in the first leg at the Mestalla and has started all the Copa matches so far. The keys for Villarreal in attack will be whether Rossi and Ruben can develop a better understanding than they did on Monday, and can the midfield provide the necessary support to create pressure and chances to score.

Garrido has chosen the following squad for the match:

Keepers: Diego López & Juan Carlos.
Defenders: Ángel, Mario, Gonzalo, Catalá, Musacchio, Capdevila & Joan Oriol.
Midfielders: Borja Valero, Bruno, Matilla, Cazorla, Cani & Jefferson Montero.
Strikers: Rossi, Marco Ruben & Altidore.

In the league match Valencia took a first-half lead, and Garrido eventually brought Ruben on to change our 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3; if the game is still scoreless or Valencia ahead after an hour I'd expect to see Montero, or possibly Altidore, come on to make the same sort of switch this time. Look for El Madrigal to be full and two evenly matched squads to battle it out with the sort of passion we'd normally expect to see in a cup final. Let's all hope the referee is equal to the task.

A 0-0 draw would result in penalties, which would be a cruel exit for either side; then again, whichever team loses at this stage will look at the other half of the Copa draw and reflect on what might have been. ENDAVANT VILLARREAL!