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Preview: Hércules vs. Villarreal B

Admit it, we all miss Ricky Drenthe.  Don't we??  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Admit it, we all miss Ricky Drenthe. Don't we?? (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
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What with that other match on Saturday in Vila-real, the B team has gotten a bit of short shrift this week. They make the short trip down the coast to Alicante to face Hércules (more about them in a minute).

As expected, it's been a period of change for the B squad. Dorian Dervite, Chiqui Guerrero, Carlos Tomás, Fofo Enriquez, and Kike López have all departed the organization (I may have missed someone!); Gonzalo Castellani is now a first-team player, while Joselu Moreno essentially is.

Gerard Bordas is returning to the B squad--we weren't aware we could do that, but his experience may help us in the relegation fight. And we're told Eric López, an attacking midfielder, and Albert Blázquez, a right back, are joining us from Espanyol B. (The latter is confirmed via the player's twitter; he played with the Spanish U-19 national team, by the way.)

Our team: The big news in this team list is the inclusion of Fernando Barrientos for the first time:

Keepers: Jorge and Ortolá.

Defenders: Toño, Jaume Costa, Diego Jiménez, Florian Lejeune and Pablo Íñiguez.

Midfielders: Pedro Vázquez, Marcos Gullón, Iriome, Toribio, Llorente, Trigueros, Barrientos and Moisés Gómez.

Forwards: Lucas Porcar, Juanto and Gerard Bordas.

No idea why Airam Cabrera isn't included; Kiko Olivas is suspended, Pere Martínez and Truyols injured, Diego Mariño called up to the A team because of Diego López's flu.

Our opponents: a fellow Valencian Community club, Hercules hails from Alicante, a town that's been around for over 2000 years. Alicante is by all accounts a lovely spot, the town has lots of palm trees, there's a beautiful castle on the hill and a lovely walkway (Explanada de España) with over 6 million marble tiles...not to mention the beaches.

Alicante was the last city loyal to the Republicans to be occupied by Franco's troops in 1939, and "sea level" in Spain is measured relative to the base of the staircase of Alicante's City Hall, deemed to be at sea level. I always wondered how that worked.

I have little negative to say about Alicante, but I can't say the same about their top football club. With a considerably shorter history than the city (the team was founded in 1922), Hércules has spent most of its existence in the Segunda Division (or lower) save for 10 years in the Primera in the 1970's and mid '80s. The last two times the club was promoted (in 1996-97 and last year) the team was immediately relegated back.

Last year's Hércules squad was pretty loathsome--not the players necessarily, but the management. There was pretty substantial evidence that the team's owner offered money to other teams in the Segunda to throw their matches so that Hércules could go up, but of course nothing happened and the team was promoted. Once in the Primera, the team got off to a decent start but soon faded. Players weren't paid, staff wasn't paid, and the players had to take a long journey just to practice. Ricky Drenthe aroused the ire of some of the team's supporters for complaining about all this, and well before the team was officially relegated it had worn out its welcome in the Primera.

Oddly enough, Hércules is a bogey club for FC Barcelona. In 1996-97 the herculanos beat them twice (two of only twelve wins all season--the Primera was 22 teams then), and Barca lost the title to Madrid by two points. Last year, Hércules went into the Nou Camp and won 2-0 with two Nelson Valdez goals. Undefeated at the Camp Nou in the league since 1986--that's Hércules.

Like so many Segunda clubs, this team is in bankruptcy, but is doing pretty well on the pitch. The "hired guns" brought in to help the club compete in the Primera--Drenthe,Trezeguet, Valdez--are long gone (though they're still owed money), but they still have some holdovers (including Colombian Abel Aguilar and Portuguese Tiago Gomes).

A stingy defense (16 goals allowed) has them in third place in the Segunda, but they don't score much--only 24 goals. And most of their goalscorers are guys who weren't with them last year--Michel (ex-Depor) and Carlos Calvo (ex-Granada), two midfielders with five goals apiece, and Urko Vera (ex-Athletic) who leads their strikers with four, including a gamewinner in injury time against us at the Mini Estadi.

Hércules defeated Huesca 2-0 in their last home game. This was the first time in 20 matches that this team had won (or lost) a game by more than one goal. Hércules fans don't get many relaxing moments or easy victories!!

Prediction: 1-1