Villarreal B was scheduled to start the Spanish professional season at home to local rivals Hércules. Then came the players' strike.
So the B team's first match is today's visit to Barcelona B. For a second straight year, these are the only two filiales in the Spanish second division. But the gap between the sides-- 20 points in 2010-11-- has closed.
Villarreal B has added a number of players over the summer. Ecuadorean midfielder 'Chiki' Guerrero (Independiente José Terán), Kike López (Salamanca), Lucas Porcar (Espanyol B), and Toño (Castellón) all could make their debuts today. And highly-rated French defender Florian Lejeune (Istres) should be available soon, having featured in the under-20 World Cup in Colombia.
Barca B, by contrast, has suffered some significant losses. Big clubs such as Benfica (Nolito) and Chelsea (Oriol Romeu) have come calling, as has the A team (Fontàs, Thiago). But don't feel too bad for them: the bulk of the excellent Spanish under-20 side came from La Masia.
In his first full season at the helm, manager José Francisco Molina is ready to incorporate fresh faces.
Molina's 18-man squad for today's encounter:
Keepers: Jorge Palatsí, Adrián Ortolà.
Defenders: Jaume Costa, Kiko Olivas, Dorian Dervite, Mano, Carlos Tomás, Toño.
Midfielders: Marcos Gullón, Gonzalo Castellani, Lucas Porcar, Thiago Dutra, Llorente, Iriome, ‘Chiki' Guerrero.
Strikers: Airam Cabrera, Kike López, Joselu.
Diego Mariño is with the A team, as Cesar Sánchez is suspended for the league opener. Hopefully the goalkeeping will not be an adventure today.
The squad seems a bit short up front, as the experienced Kike López has arrived in place of Nicki Bille Nielsen (on loan to Elche). But I expect the midfield will pop in a few more goals this year. Lejeune and Porcar are the X-factors.
The match begins at 10 am Eastern Time. Expect a few streams. Endavant minisubmarino!