If ever there was a game Villarreal need to win, it's this one. After two disappointing home draws to inferior opposition, and a toothless performance against Elche last week, the knives are out for young coach Velazquez, and the general feeling around Vila-real is that unless we win this game, he is gone.
Sr. Roig and his son (possibly Sr. Llaneza as well) watched training and made a point of visiting the locker room afterward, just as they did after the Elche loss. Cani said there was no pressure put on the squad by this visit, only a message of "support", but we know the club brass weren't just there to say "hi, and by the way, have you listened to the latest Villarreal USA podcast?"
Sr. Velazquez has called up the following players:
Keepers: Juan Carlos y Mariño.
Defenders: Javi Venta, Jaume Costa, Joan Oriol, Mellberg, Musacchio y Pablo Íñiguez.
Midfielders: Hernán Pérez, Bruno, Marcos Senna, Cani, Trigueros y Moi.
Strikers: Pandiani, Uche, Cavenaghi y Gerard Bordas.
So in spite of an injury last week, Javi Venta is good to go. We expect to see the standard six in front of Mariño (Bruno and Senna in the pivote, plus the back four) so that leaves only four places. if there are to be two strikers, Uche and Cavenaghi should get those places, so probably Cani and Trigueros get the other spots, with Moi and Hernan available off the bench.
Sidarth made a good point on the podcast that perhaps we should move Bruno to the back, or scrap the pivote, or something, so we could get more offense in there. But I don't see it happening. Otherwise the list is noteworthy for Iñiguez being included again at the expense of Mario Gaspar (whose stock has fallen dramatically; when did he last play?) and Truyols, as well as the continued absence of Canteros. And Gerard Bordas returns at the expense of Gerard Moreno. Rearranging the deckchairs?
Our opponents: Alcorcon nearly made it out of the Segunda last year, and they are in the playoff hunt this time. Most Segunda clubs (including us) are a mixture of 30+ year-old veterans with up-and-coming youngsters 20 and under. Alcorcon has the veterans, especially in midfield (Sergio Mora, Fernando Sales, and Ruben Sanz for example), and most of this team has been together for a couple of years now. Up front, 26 year-old Oriol Riera has already fired in nine goals, Julian Cerda has four, and ex-Villarreal B player Kike Lopez (remember him from the first half of last year) has two. As for veteran striker Quini, who scored 22 goals for Alcorcon two years ago, he is still with this squad, but hardly plays.
Keep in mind Alcorcon play in a stadium only slightly larger than our Mini Estadi (5000 seats). Their manager has never brought a team to the Primera, and this is his first coaching stint outside the Valencian Community; the club has only been in the Segunda for three years now, and most of the players have never played in the Primera either. But here they are, lying in third place and playing excellent football. They will give up some goals (18 allowed to our 13) because they are very attack-minded, putting pressure on the ball and creating direct attacks as much as possible. By all accounts they outplayed Elche a couple of weeks ago even though they came away with no points, and from the highlights I've seen they look like they are playing the best football in the division right now.
Cani says this game isn't a "final", but that we need to win it, all the same. Villarreal did get some unexpected help with Almeria losing at home to Lugo and Elche only able to manage a draw with Barca B, so a win would put us four points out of the automatic promotion spots. A loss, though, would leave us seven points behind third place, and possibly six points out of fourth. We need a win. ENDAVANT VILLARREAL.