It is another big match for Villarreal, one in which a loss would almost certainly create a complete roadblock to obtaining a third place finish in La Liga, blah, blah, blah. This is getting a bit old. Villarreal, given every opportunity to truly solidify a Champions League place (and third, at that), has continually shown no spine, and is now paying the price. Now, every match in La Liga carries huge import despite the fact that Villarreal should have been able to stop worrying about league matches three or four weeks ago. And now, in effect, a loss would put Villarreal seven points adrift of third place, considering the head-to-head issues with Valencia.
Of course, Villarreal have to want to crush rivals Valencia to the point of drawing quarts of blood, regardless of the possible outcomes of the league.Villarreal have actually had quite a bit of success at the Old Mestalla (* by referencing "Old", I am implicitly laughing at the lack of a "New" Mestalla - and explaining that here, just for those of you who might have missed it, because there is never a good reason to not deride our storied but bankrupt neighbors to the south) of late. Going back to the 2006/2007 season, Villarreal pulled off a 2-3 victory towards the end of May, blowing away any title hopes Valencia might have been unreasonably holding. They started off the following season with a 0-3 thrashing (Tomasson, Rossi, Cazorla). In January 2009, Villarreal took what felt like a victory when they came back from a 2-0 Valencian lead to pull off a 3-3 draw (remember Fuentes' pre-half header?). It was only last year, when Villarreal were suffering under the tutelage of Ernesto Valverde (just before he kicked the can), that Valencia took advantage of some poor management and a 27th minute Kiko red card to blow the Yellow Submarine to hell and back, 4-1.
Valencia come into the match feeling a bit relieved after an admittedly brilliant 4-goal performance from Roberto Soldado last week saw them bounce back from a rough run of form to pick up three points and once again secure 3rd place in La Liga. Before that, Valencia had suffered their first true bump in the road during a steady, if uneventful, season to date. Before last week, they had lost three out of four, including a truly shocking 4-0 loss at Zaragoza (seriously, who does that?). They must feel content knowing that Villarreal failed to take advantage of that blip, continuing to hand Valencia the upper hand through a poor second half of the domestic season.
Valencia is one of those teams that it is always hard to peg. They have been steady this year, and although that might be the best one could say of them, it has worked, and the seeming pedestrian nature of their play has lead them into an impressive third place. They have done it, as seems typical of their average play, by spreading goals out among a number of players. Soldado's 4 last week pushed him finally up to double digits at 10, and Aduriz is sitting at 9. They have a couple with 5, a couple with 4, and eight players with one goal - impressively boring.
Villarreal's call for the match:
Keepers: Diego López and Juan Carlos.
Defenders: Mario, Musacchio, Catalá, Capdevila, Marchena, Cicinho, Kiko and Joan Oriol.
Midfielders: Borja Valero, Bruno, Santi Cazorla, Matilla and Wakaso.
Forwards: Rossi, Nilmar and Marco Ruben.
Villarreal have lost the services of Gonzalo for the rest of the season, adding him to the ranks of Ángel and Senna (although Senna might be coming back before too long). They are also without Cani for the tie, which will make the midfield paper thin. Garrido is going to have to decide if he is going to keep Marchena in midfield, where he has generally been effective, or pull him back to have an experienced back line. The best bet would be that Garrido will pull Catalá into the middle and put Capdevila back on the pitch in a starter's role. That avoids the lack of speed in central defense, while keeping Catalá's positive presence on the pitch. My eleven:
If things keep up the way they have, expect a long afternoon of missed chances and a disappointing result. If a little bit of luck goes our way, and we can pull some of our Europa form out of the bag, we could actually pull out a decent result. I really have no idea at this point, but I would be thrilled with a draw. Unibats 2 - 2 Villarreal. ENDAVANT!