I have a soft spot for a second team in one of Spain's largest cities. Always in the shadow of its big brother, it has sold prized assets and developed young talents. Under a youthful manager, the team has developed an attractive style of football. Sound familiar?
I could be referring to Villarreal, located outside of Spain's third-largest city. But this description equally applies to Espanyol, whose new stadium sits on the outskirts of the country's second-largest town. Which makes today's match all the more interesting.
With the injury plague that has descended upon Vila-real, manager Juan Carlos Garrido opted for a defensive mindset against Manchester City. Our resistance lasted for thirty minutes, then after a wobble, was killed off in first-half stoppage time. And Joselu even had a half-chance or two.
But this attitude may not be palatable to Sr. Roig against a team of similar means. You may recall we attempted to pry away Espanyol midfielder Joan Verdú over the summer, but he was made unavailable. Other periquitos worth knowing: young strikers Álvaro Vázquez (Spain) and Thievy Bifouma (France), along with my favorite paquete in La Liga, Sergio García. Even he has more La Roja caps than Borja Valero and as many as Bruno Soriano. Oy.
I expect three changes from our starting XI on Wednesday. Wakaso Mubarak was ineffective in the doble pivote, and Joselu was alone on an island up front. With Carlos Marchena ill, I expect Bruno and Marcos Gullón in central midfield, and Marco Ruben should return as the lone striker.
Villarreal (4-2-3-1): D. López; Mario, Gonzalo, Musacchio, Catalá; Bruno, Gullón; Pérez, Borja, de Guzmán; Ruben.
Bench: César; Ángel, Florian Lejeune (his debut!), Oriol; Wakaso; Gerard, Joselu.
The match begins at 12 noon Eastern Time (we have "fallen back"). Look for streams. Endavant Villarreal!