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Preview: Deportivo - Villarreal

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Villarreal will attempt to pull itself out of the murky depths that Levante sank it to last week, with a trip to an unusually hapless Deportivo side. I admit that I didn't see Deportivo's terrible season coming when we first kicked the ball around with them. If you remember the preview I wrote for jornada 4, this is what I said:

The match against Deportivo La Coruña, though, will give us a better idea [of where we are than the matches against Real Sociedad and Levante had]. Depor has not had a stellar start to the season, taking until the third match to notch a single goal – and even then, only on two penalties. But they haven’t been defeated yet, and that is saying something, having played Sevilla and Getafe. I expect Depor to end up somewhere around 8 or 9 in the standings, and based on that, they should be a good measuring stick.

I can admit when I am wrong. And I was really, really wrong. Deportivo has been a mere shade of the side they have put up over the last ten or so years. They currently are wallowing in 17th, a hair above the drop zone, and with only 22 points. Even their typical fortress the Riazor has been susceptible to travelers this year, where they have won only 3 times in 10 matches.

Deportivo's biggest problem has been on the offensive side of the pitch. They have been held scoreless a shocking 12 times in 22 matches. Admittedly, only four of those scoreless days were in Galicia, but the offensive impotence has been the telling point of their season no matter where they play. Altogether, they have amassed 19 goals on the year, a pitiful total. Even at home, they have only managed 13 goals in 10 matches.

As for recent form, Deportivo has been near its worst as of late. In their last five matches, they have drawn one and dropped four, conceding 14 goals. Villarreal will be looking to continue that momentum and possibly be the straw that breaks Miguel Angel Lotina's back. It isn't clear how Lotina has hung on to the reins of the once-proud club as they have steadily regressed in the table, but one has to think that another loss, with only a few real opportunities left to pull themselves out of danger from the drop, will be his end.

But Villarreal should know better by now than to count their chickens before they hatch. Last week, they laid a pretty horrible egg at home against neighbors Levante, perhaps the worst-played match of the season. The midfield and attack were simply a shambles, and Levante's heavy defense easily withstood everything the Yellow Submarine threw at them. In an astounding fact, Villarreal did not get a single shot on goal in the second half, a period during which they were losing against a team sitting deep in the relegation zone.

The club has had some good news this week, though. Nilmar was back last week, but no one thought him truly match-fit, and it was clear that he wasn't. In addition, he and Rossi had not played together in so long that it was clear they forgot the formula that had worked so well for the club. Villarreal also was short in the strikeforce with the loss of Marco Ruben, who was out with a muscle strain. He is back this week, though, and could be brought on later in the match if Villarreal continues to have trouble breaking down the 11 men that Deportivo surely will keep in the box. And finally, Villarreal welcomes back wise-man Marcos Senna, who now has been out for a couple of months. Villarreal was not able to pick up a central midfielder in Senna's mold during the transfer window, but perhaps over the last matches of the season, Senna himself will suffice!

Villarreal's squad for the match:

Keepers: Diego López and Oliva.
Defenders: Mario, Cicinho, Marchena, Gonzalo, Musacchio, Capdevila & Catalá.
Midfielders: Senna, Bruno, Cazorla, Borja Valero, Cani & Matilla.
Strikers: Rossi, Nilmar & Marco Ruben.

Villarreal will feel like slamming its head into a brick wall for most of tomorrow's match, as Deportivo's approach will be to aim for a scoreless draw. They watched Levante's defensive masterclass last week and probably will throw in an extra defender just for good luck. Villarreal probably would like to go with a 4-3-3, but I really do not think Ruben has it in him to go 90 minutes, and for that matter, Nilmar may not either. Without Montero or Altidore, options are limited, and Villarreal probably will be forced to go with the traditional 4-4-2 (or 4-2-2-2) and hope to light a fire under the attacking midfield. Based on last weekend, this could be a good time to sub in Matilla for Borja, or alternately move Borja out wide and sit Cani, but I would be shocked to see a change.

My projected XI- nothing surprising, except for perhaps giving Gonzalo a break:

Diego López
Mario - Marchena - Musacchio - Capdevila
Cazorla - Borja - Bruno - Cani
Rossi - Nilmar

This is a 100 percent vital match. A loss here basically is a six-point swing, while a draw would be a four-point swing, all in favor of Valencia, because we know Valencia will win when they come to the Riazor. We already had a six-point swing in Valencia's favor last week and simply cannot afford another.