After playing out an entertaining draw against one of most in-form teams at home, Villarreal visits last-placed (a.k.a. colista) Zaragoza. To say Zaragoza is in a state of turmoil would be an understatement. Coach Manolo Jiménez, who took over from the Mexican Javier Aguirre after the Christmas break, has his team playing hard, but hasn't been able to achieve much in terms of results. They are still in last place, 12 points away from safety with 13 games left. Villarreal has the worst away record in La Liga: 1 win, 3 draws and 8 losses in 12 matches.
A loss for Zaragoza would leave them 15 points from safety and a step closer to relegation. Zaragoza's problems aren't confined to the pitch. They are in bankruptcy, and fans have turned against the current owner Agapito Iglesias, who is going down the path of Manuel Ruiz de Lopera of Real Betis. They have made a lot of 'shady signings' where the players aren't owned by the club, but rather by a player investment fund owned by Jorge Mendes & Co. A win for Villarreal would move them further away from the danger zone. If there ever were an away game that Villarreal needed to win, this is it.
Players & Match-ups
Marco Ruben will miss this game due to the injury he picked up in the 1st half against Athletic Bilbao. Nilmar scored his first goal in more than four months and showed positive signs that he and Alejandro Martinuccio can combine well. Apart from that, I don't expect any differences in the Villarreal XI.
Joan Oriol's twin brother Edu plays for Zaragoza. A bit of a family reunion there. It will also be a special game for Rubén Cani to play against his former team. Mateo Musacchio is still injured, which means Cristián Zapata will start again.
Zaragoza forwards vs Villarreal defense
On paper, this is by far the most favorable match-up for Zaragoza. Ángel Lafita and Helder Postiga (injured) are streaky but very capable of causing trouble to our shaky defense, particularly on the road. The maños led twice in the first leg at El Madrigal early in the season.
Zaragoza's problems lie in their defense. They haven't been able to field a steady back four all season. Roberto is a great shot-stopping goalkeeper, but he can't mask the ineptitude of the four guys that line up in front of him.
Keys to win for Villarreal
Unlike in the past couple of games, Villarreal needs good games from Borja Valero and Cani to control the midfield and continue attacking Zaragoza's defense. Senna and Bruno should be able to pull the strings from deep areas.
Late-breaking update: Joan Oriol & Hernán Pérez don't make the list of 19 for the trip to Zaragoza due to injuries. Jaume Costa and Joselu Moreno replace them. Bruno Soriano will be evaluated before the game.
Zaragoza 4-2-3-1 (likely)
Roberto; Obradovic-Da Silva-Lanzaro-Juarez; Apoño-Micael; Luis Garcia-Edu Oriol-Lafita; Aranda
Villarreal 4-4-2/4-2-2-2 (likely)
OriolJaume Costa-Gonzalo-Zapata-Ángel; Senna-Bruno; Cani-Borja; Nilmar-Martinuccio
0-1. Based on current form and the talent disparity, Villarreal should pull out a win.