The last few weeks have been a study in ugly for the Yellow Submarine. Ignoring the return-leg 3-0 win over Odense to reach the Champions League group stages, Villarreal have wallowed to a 5-0 disgrace against Barcelona in the Camp Nou, a decent 2-2 draw against Sevilla in El Madrigal, a poor 0-2 loss against Bayern Munich at home (a loss which might put Villarreal out of the running for the knockout rounds of the Champions League before the competition really gets going), and a simply embarrassing 1-0 loss against an Ikechukwu Uche-led Granada side that had been sitting at the bottom of the La Liga table before Villarreal came visiting. I have not been able to bring myself to look at the Primera table since the weekend. Ugly.
On Tuesday, Villarreal welcomes to El Madrigal a team that would love nothing more than to make the season feel downright execrable. Mallorca, who must feel at this point that Villarreal is the nemesis that will not die. At the conclusion of the 2009-2010 season, they thought they had secured a Europa League bid with an admirable 5th place finish, on the back of Borja Valero. Villarreal then participated in some degree (although surely not to the point of making a definitive difference) in knocking Mallorca out of Europe, due to the islanders' financial considerations, and securing the Yellow's own spot in the Europa League. We followed that up, to unintentionally spit in their eye as it were, by managing to pluck Borja Valero on loan from West Bromwich Albion, a man that Mallorca surely wanted to hold on to. And then, how do we follow up a year of outright spite coming from the island club? By taking their best player, Jonathan De Guzmán, of course. I am sure things are going to go swimmingly between President Roig and President Cladera tomorrow, assuming the two speak.
Villarreal has had a slight edge in head-to-head match ups over the last couple of years. Last year, Villarreal managed a strong 3-1 victory over Mallorca in El Madrigal, but only a 0-0 draw in the return leg. Altogther, Villarreal have managed 4 wins, 3 draws, and 1 loss against Mallorca since the 2007-2008 season began. Villarreal are desperately looking to continue that streak of form against their non-European competitors.
Unfortunately, at the time of this writing, Villarreal have not officially announced a call for the match. As they are at home, though, and facing no major injuries or red cards, the group can be fairly predicted:
Keepers: Diego Lopez and César.
Defenders: Mario Gaspar, Cristián Zapata, Gonzalo Rodriguez, Mateo Musacchio, Jose Manuel Catalá, and Carlos Marchena.
Midfielders: Bruno Soriano, Marcos Senna, Wakaso Mubarak, Borja Valero, Ruben Cani, Camuñas and Jonathan De Guzmán.
Forwards: Giuseppe Rossi, Nilmar and Marco Ruben.
(Note: The only change I am predicting from the lineup for Saturday's gem against Granada is dropping Joan Oriol in favor of Wakaso - Garrido knows he has to get more out of his midfield, and the Ghanaian has the energy to bring in that regard, an energy that I found lacking in Camuñas over the weekend).
I would like to see an effort to present a lineup that could get us back to what we are known for - possession, a quality passing game, and a threatening offense. By my reading, the best way to do that is with a more attack-oriented midfield, with an ability to create a diamond that can connect the defensive stops to a goalscorer up top:
Mario - Zapata - Musacchio - Catalá
Cani --- Borja
Rossi - Nilmar
We are all wondering when Villarreal is going to right the ship. If the club is aiming at qualifying for Europe next year, with only one point, we are already behind the 8-ball when it comes to our rivals Valencia, leading the league with 9 points on three matches. Not the way to start. This match comes on only two-days' rest, though, which is not a good sign for Villarreal. Follow that up with a match on three days' rest, and then a Champions League match on two days' rest, and Villarreal better find some heretofore unknown depth and inner reserves, or it will be a very long, ugly season indeed. ENDAVANT VILLARREAL!