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Villarreal B--Real Valladolid PREVIEW

Villarreal B is 10 points above the drop zone, but face a stern test Friday t home against second-placed Real Valladolid.
Villarreal B is 10 points above the drop zone, but face a stern test Friday t home against second-placed Real Valladolid.

It's that time again, groguets! Friday night in the Segunda with another match involving our B team. This time it's in the Mini Estadi, and the visitors are Real Valladolid, currently lying second in the table and on course for an automatic promotion to the Primera.

Valladolid have mostly been a top-flight team on the last thirty years, but were relegated in 2009-10 and went out in the promotion playoffs last year after finishing seventh. They've been in the top five pretty much all season, and come into this match having won four in a row, with their last loss, over a month ago, to fellow promotion candidates Celta Vigo.

I wish I could paint you a better picture of the Pucela off the pitch, but the team's success this season hasn't translated to financial stability. Valladolid filed for the equivalent of Spanish bankruptcy protection JUST before the law came in that would allow the league to impose sanctions (involuntary relegation) on such teams. I am not sure exactly where matters stand at the moment, but the last I heard Valladolid players were having to buy such things as bandages and training supplies themselves, because the team couldn't afford to.

No surprise therefore that star player Javi Guerra (14 goals) was rumored to be leaving in the January transfer window, and no surprise also that the club most interested--Glasgow Rangers--didn't make a bid due to its own (severe) financial problems!

Our opponents in detail: Real Valladolid is a veteran team, and poses a tough matchup for a young squad like ours. And some of these veterans have significant first-division experience. In midfield, for instance, Óscar González (29 years old) played for Zargoza in the Primera for many years; Mehdi Nafti (33), is a well-traveled defensive midfielder, ex-Tunisian international, who has played for Birmingham City, Racing Santander, and Aris Salonika in top-flight leagues, while wingers Sisi (25) and Nauzet Aléman (27) played for Valladolid and Las Palmas in the Primera at one time.

And then there's the Villarreal midfield connection--yes, let's not forget the well-traveled Marquitos! A product of our youth system, he scored goals against both Barcelona and Real Madrid in the 2006-07 season (is he the last Villarreal player to do that?) but then was loaned out to Recre and Real Sociedad (when they were in the Segunda) before Villarreal released him. He signed with Valladolid, spent last year on loan to our B team where he didn't impress, and is now back in Valladolid.

Up front, apart from Javi Guerra (29, largely developed in Valencia's system), Valladolid have ex-Madrid cantera man Bueno, who played for Derby County in England on loan last season, as well as Angolan international Manucho, who scored both of the team's goals when they beat us earlier this season. He was bought by Valladolid from Manchester United, where he hardly featured, and promised to score "forty goals" for Valladolid when they signed him. Well, so far he's a bit short of that target, with nine over nearly three years.

But the real story here is the back four, which together with keeper Jaume have only given up 28 goals this season, the best in the Segunda. Ex-Sevilla man Marc Valiente and ex-Athletic Club defender Mikel Balenziaga are among this group.

Looking at their recent lineups, it appears Valladolid have gone to a 3-4-3 in some matches, while playing four at the back other times. They haven't been scored on in their last two games, and the last time a team got two goals on them was Celta's victory in March.

Villarreal B: Coach Velásquez has said this should be an attractive game, and is hoping for a good crowd tomorrow. The team hasn't yet been announced, but the only real questions are up front. The back four is likely to be Truyols, Lejeune, Kiko Olivas and Jaume Costa, and the midfield should be Trigueros, Llorente, Toribio and Porcar, with Joselu and Gerard Bordas up front, unless Moi Gomez slides into the lineup in place of one of those two.

When the two clubs met in Valladolid (November 19, 2011) the 2-1 final scoreline was flattering to the Mini Submarine, as our tally came via an own goal in the 89th minute. Of course, we had a very lonely Airam wandering around up front with virtually no support until Porcar came on with an hour gone.

Allen's prediction: There is a clear gulf in experience between the two sides, and I think this is one of those games where that will matter. I expect us to play well, but--leaving aside Barca B for the moment---probably only Depor has as much quality in their team, top to bottom. So, Villarreal B 0-2 Real Valladolid. I'll be happy to be proven wrong!

There will be plenty of streams tomorrow, as befits a Friday evening game (3PM EDT in the States).