Apologies for the lack of content this week--a busy one for all of us. Here is a quick guide to today's match.
Our opponents: Real Madrid Castilla (Real Madrid B) were promoted to the Segunda last season. In spite of losing to us 2-1 at El Madrigal on the opening weekend of the season, they got off to a decent start, with five wins and four losses in their first nine games, but after that have really struggled. In their last 12 matches their lone win was a 4-0 shellacking of Racing. However, it must be said they played very competitively in losses to Alcorcon (3-2 away), Elche (1-0 away), and last week drew with Girona 0-0.
Denis Cheryshev, a young Russian striker who has scored seven goals, returns from suspension for them, and teams with Canarian Jesé Rodriguez (10 goals) to give an excellent strike pairing up front. Like Barcelona B, RM Castilla is a young squad, no one over 25 years old, and that's meant some problems in the back, with 38 goals conceded in the first round of games.
Villarreal: Two big losses this week from our squad, as Mateo Musacchio is suspended and Hernan Perez injured. Jaume Costa is suspended, as well. Coach Marcelino Toral's first team call looks like this:
Keepers: Mariño, Juan Carlos.
Defenders: Mario, Javi Venta, Mellberg, Truyols, Joan Oriol, Pablo Íñiguez.
Midfielders: Marcos Senna, Farinós, Bruno, Cani, Moi, Trigueros.
Strikers: Cavenaghi, Pandiani, Pereira y Gerard Moreno.
The same players miss out through "coach's decision" as under Velázquez-- Canteros, Toribio and Bordas. Make of that what you will. But Gerard Moreno is called up, and Pablo Iñiguez looks set to pair Mellberg in the center of our defense.
We know we'll play a 4-4-2, and Bruno (who is apparently OK after some discomfort in practice this week) will not be in the back line, so I look for something like Oriol, Mellberg, Iñiguez and Javi Venta as the back four, Trigueros, Senna, Bruno and Cani in midfield, and Cavenaghi and Pereira up front.
As for goal, Diego Mariño seems to be recovered from his injury so gets my nod. But we'll see.
Keys to the game: Pretty simple, actually. Can Villarreal score a goal or two on the road? With only eight goals scored away from home all season (three of those against Racing), we've been relying on our defense to help us pick up a point, whether 0-0 or 1-1, in away matches. We have to start picking up three points away from home if we're going to get back in contact with the league leaders.
Villarreal defeated these guys at home back in August in spite of a dodgy penalty call against us and an obvious penalty not given to us when Uche was chopped down in the box, as two Cavenaghi goals, the second a magnificent one, gave us a deserved win.
Today's referee is the same one we had in the draw with Real Murcia (it was wet and windy that day, too) and I don't remember him being terribly noticeable, which for Segunda referees is pretty good. Hopefully he (and we) have a good game today. The match is at 2PM EST, and since it is on Marca TV in Spain there should be some good streams available. Endavant!