Big questions ahead of the most important Comunitat Valenciana derbi in recent memory:
- Is this a must-win for Unai Emery? I don't think so, but a 4th-place finish in La Liga may toll the end of his tenure. So let's call it a maybe.
- How many defenders will be in Valencia's starting XI? Unai had initial success with 5, but Garrido countered with 3 strikers, and the tactical battle was on. I expect 5 again, but look for the Valencia wingbacks to push forward a bit more at home.
- How does Villarreal cope with playing mid-week? Thursday marked our easiest win in Europe since the qualifying round, so I expect that our key players will have gas left in the tank.
- Who starts in place of the injured Gonzalo Rodriguez? Garrido has a lot of faith in Jose Manuel Catala, so expect him to be paired with Mateo Musacchio in central defense. Consequently, Joan Capdevila or Joan Oriol should start at left back. But I've been wrong before.
- How will Carlos Marchena be received on his return to Mestalla? With a great deal of affection, I presume. He put in 9 legendary years with Los Che, and fans are not so fickle. But once the whistle blows, the wily veteran will be on his game. I expect a few derisive whistles by the end of the match.
My expected XI:
Mario Gaspar – Musacchio – Catala – Capdevila
Nilmar – Giuseppe Rossi
Ruben Cani misses out due to a last-minute injury, so Javier Matilla is back in the squad. Welcome back from the doghouse.
A great match deserves no prediction. I'd love a win, but realistically, a new foursome at the back will take some time to gel. And Mestalla is not the ideal place to experience growing pains. Endavant Villarreal!