Villarreal enter the Copa del Rey now, taking on fellow Valencian Community club Elche CF in the round of 32. To put it bluntly, our record in this competition has been poor, though it has been responsible for some memorable moments, and has led to the dismissal of several managers!
Our best record is reaching the quarterfinals, which we did in 1992-93 (going out to Valencia, 8-1 on aggregate), 2001-02 (losing to Bilbao, 3-0), 2007-08 (going out to Barcelona, 1-0) and most recently 2010-11 (6-3 to Sevilla).
Bad memories include going out to clubs like Poli Ejido, 6-1 in 2008 (Poli doesn't even exist any more), and the January 2010 elimination at the hands of Celta, 2-1. We played for a goalless draw at home, didn't get it thanks to a questionable penalty in the last minute of the match, and by the end of the month, Manager Ernesto Valverde was gone.
And--of course--Juan Carlos Garrido lost his job immediately after Mirandés defeated us at El Madrigal in January 2012.
Good memories? Well, the comeback against Valencia in January 2011 was a highlight of our season. Down 2-0 in the second leg at El Madrigal after 22 minutes, we came back with four second-half goals to win the match, and the tie, 4-2 on aggregate.
Marcelino doesn't have to worry about his job, regardless of what happens, but clearly we would like to do well for a change, as the draw is relatively kind to us. If we get by Elche, we have Real Sociedad next.
- Keepers: Asenjo, Juan Carlos.
- Defenders: Mario, Pantic, Jokic, Musacchio, Dorado, Pablo Íñiguez.
- Midfielders: Cani, Pina, Trigueros, Aquino, Moi Gómez, Edu Ramos.
- Strikers: Uche, Giovani, Perbet, Jonathan Pereira.
We already know JC will be in goal, Pantic and Perbet will start. A rest for Super Mario!
There is a rumor Garrido would like to get Hernan Perez for Betis. I doubt that's why he's not on the list though--Marcelino probably wants to give Moi some playing time.
Our opponents: Elche made it to the semifinals of the cup in 1969--it was called the Copa del Generalisimo in those days, and after defeating Pontevedra, Valencia, and Real Sociedad, they lost the final, 1-0, to Bilbao.
In more recent years, they haven't done much. They did reach the round of 32 in 2008-09, round of 16 in 2004-05, but that's about it. So at least we're not taking on a club with lots of great history in this thing either.
We do have some history, not terribly recent, in the Copa with them. In November 1978, third-division Villarreal went out 3-1 on aggregate to the franjiverdes after a goalless draw at a packed El Madrigal (much smaller in those days!!), and in September 1997 Elche defeated us 1-0 in an early-round matchup.
Moving to the present, their list of players is as follows:
- Keepers: Manu Herrera, Toño (apparently Herrera will start, which seems odd)
- Defenders: Suarez, Botia, Pelegrin, Albacar, Cisma.
- Midfielders: Rivera, Rubén Pérez, Mantecon, Flores, Generelo, Carlos Sánchez, Stevanovic, Fidel.
- Strikers: Boakye, Carles Gil, Corominas, Cristian Herrera.
The referee: Clos Gómez, who was the man in the middle of last year's Atletico Madrid-Real Madrid final, giving out 13 yellows and two reds in that battle. During this year's La Liga, he's seen both teams once: he "beeped" in our 4-1 home win over Valencia, and he did the same for Elche's 2-1 home win over Espanyol.
Venue/media coverage: El Madrigal should have a good crowd given it's a local rival, and Elche will certainly bring a number of fans. Kickoff is 10AM eastern time in the US. I do not know if the game will be televised, since channel 9 is no more; check for streams. It is the only match at that time, but Barcelona is playing at Cartagena later in the day so I'd expect the national broadcasters will cover that one. Certainly our match will be on Radio Vila-real if you can listen to that.
Prediction: It's always difficult to predict Copa matches at this stage--so much depends on the motivation of the teams and the lineup changes that get made. Both clubs really want to do well, though, so I am expecting a match similar to what we saw in Elche in the league--very competitive, very tight. I'm going to go for 2-1 to us, which will leave it all to play for in the second leg. Endavant Villarreal!!