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Preview: Villarreal - Barcelona

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Villarreal welcome Barcelona to El Madrigal Saturday afternoon, in a match that no one was sure would happen just a few short days ago.  The Group of Six, led in part by Villarreal, managed to fight through the proposed strike and assure that the match will go forward.  A thousand reasons for Villarreal's actions have been put forth, but I think we can all agree that we are happy to see some action at El Madrigal on Saturday.

Many prognosticators suggest that we are catching Barcelona at a good moment.  The FIFA virus...a dip in form...no Xavi, Puyol, Abidal, Pedro, Maxwell...a possibly injured Messi and Bojan...yada, yada, yada.  Believe none of it!  Do you really think that there is ever a good time to play the Blaugranes?  

Villarreal may have finally turned a corner on their revolting start to 2011 with the last few matches.  Coming off a humbling 3-1 obliteration by the unnamed red-and-white team from Madrid, Villarreal managed to knock off an excellent Bayer Leverkusen side in back-to-back matches, drop two points against a fighting Sporting, and pull off a very unexpected result in their last match before the break in Bilbao.  Now that they have developed a bit of momentum, of course they had the two week break to cool things off a bit.  Of course, the break could bring the advantage of a little rest, something the guys have been severely short of since January and our ill-fated Copa del Rey attempt.

Villarreal have some very tough decisions to make.  While a victory over Barcelona in Saturday's match would be absolutely priceless, the team is almost guaranteed a spot in the Champions League unless they absolutely self-destruct over the next few matches.  (While there is a difference between 3rd and 4th place, obviously, the difference is not nearly so big as the canyon between 4th and 5th).  The team desperately wants hardware, and is in a great position to pick some up in the Europa League; Thursday, they have to show up in order to continue to move towards that dream.  

Unfortunately, the same dilemma will face them in La Liga next week, when they travel to the Mestalla to take on the Unibats in a 6-point affair, only to have to travel to the Netherlands that week.  Needless to say, the club has some huge matches on the horizon, and must figure out its priorities in a hurry.

Barcelona's call for the match:

Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Milito, Piqué, Mascherano, Keita, Sergio Busquets, Iniesta, Messi, Bojan, Villa, Jeffren, Afellay, Adriano, Fontàs, Thiago, Montoya and Jonathan dos Santos.

Villarreal's call:

Keepers: Diego López and Juan Carlos.
Defenders: Mario, Gonzalo, Musacchio, Catalá, Capdevila, Marchena, Cicinho and Kiko.
Midfielders: Borja Valero, Bruno, Cani, Santi Cazorla and Wakaso.
Forwards: Rossi, Nilmar and Marco Ruben.

There are some faces we have not seen in a while - Cicinho has been called in from the beach (can you imagine how dark his tan is going to be?), and Kiko has made the jump up.  The call of Kiko suggests that Garrido could be looking to put Marchena back in the midfield alongside Bruno, and use Barca-killer Cani as a supersub if we need a goal and it is getting late.

I think Garrido, looking back on our previous bout against the Catalans, will be focused on increasing the Yellow Submarine's midfield possession, and believing that it is doable with Xavi out for Barca.  My lineup:

 

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

 

Various sites have predicted varying results for the match.  A Villarreal victory.  An away win for Barcelona. Some desperate hope from Real Madrid.  As of the time of this writing, I will not hazard a guess.  Literally everything is up in the air for Villarreal.  No matter how much I blather on about all this, the lineup is unpredictable, the intensity and drive are unpredictable, and Garrido is unpredictable.  But Villarreal definitely have a chance.  ENDAVANT!

¡Esto es fútbol!