It's been a quiet few days here on Villarreal USA--mostly because of the American election, at least in my case. But now that's done we can get back to football, and specifically to Villarreal's promotion campaign, which has been sputtering of late.
We do tend to be a critical bunch; after all, we are fifth in the table, in the promotion places, and we've lost only two matches in our first twelve. But, we've only won half of them, and the fanbase is looking for a good win to become energized and full of confidence--and we haven't had it yet. We haven't scored more than two goals in a match this season, and we've only scored two goals in a half twice (second half against Guadalajara and Cordoba). Now we return to El Madrigal in an early Sunday kickoff against Real Murcia. Those of us in the US have to get up early for this one, those in Spain have their entire day thrown off by having to watch a game at the foreign time of noon.
Our opponents: Real Murcia have the splendid nickname of "Los Pimentoneros" (the Paprika Men), a reference to the color of their uniforms as well as their region's famous product. They have mostly been a Segunda team in recent years, with two poor seasons in the Primera in the 2000's their only appearances at that level in the last 20 years. They were promoted to the Segunda two seasons ago, finished 18th last year but show signs of improvement this time round.
Murcia have two road wins, against Xerez and Sporting (the opening week) but have lost by one goal each of their last three away matches. Coach Gustavo Siviero will be without midfielder Eddy Pascual, sent off against Girona, but as far as I know will have everyone else available to him, including fellow Argentinians Cristian Garcia (ex-Banfield) and ex-Independiente (and Santigao Wanderers) striker Nicolas Martinez. Garcia and Javi Matilla (see below) lead them with four goals each. Murcia also has a young 22-year old, Kike (Enrique Garcia Martinez) who was a teammate of Matilla in the Spanish side that won the UEFA U-21 championship in Denmark in 2011. He has come up through their youth system and shows promise.
Villarreal connection: Let's start with Javi Matilla, a member of that Villarreal B Segunda side coached by Garrido that had everyone excited. Players like Ruben and Montero, of course, have departed, and so too did Matilla after hardly seeing any playing time at the top level. Villarreal sold him to Betis for €1.4 million, and he did absolutely nothing to justify that expenditure. Loaned out this season to the paprika men, he's scored four goals so far, including a couple of gamewinners. So we should definitely watch for him.
The other player, also a member of that Garrido squad, who is likely to start is Jose Catalá. A versatile defender, but ultimately one who failed to make the grade at top level, but at age 28 he brings some experience to the Murcia back line. He gave an interview to Marca this week where he said he thought we would end up in the top two--hope he's right!
And let's not forget current Villarreal starlet Manu Trigueros who joined us from Murcia a couple of years ago.
Our squad: Well, let's start with the coach, because Julio Velazquez received a one-match ban for accumulated yellow cards (I guess) which takes effect this match. Doubtless he'll be somewhere issuing instructions to whoever takes his place on the touchline.
As for the players, Mellberg is still injured, but we have gotten through our suspensions and cautions. I'd like to see MArio return in place of Javi Venta, Cavenaghi ought to take Pandiani's place, and I'd drop Cani and start two of the Moi/Hernan/Manu group with Senna and Bruno in midfield, but we'll see what happens. Team news as we have it.
Let' s use this place for the next couple of days to comment and add any squad updates. Endavant!!