Villarreal return to action on Sunday, closing out another day of La Liga action with the late match versus Almeria. We've had good success against them the past few years, winning the last match of the 2012-13 Segunda season in El Madrigal to earn automatic promotion, the first match of the 2013-14 Primera season down there, and then a 2-0 win in January in our home match.
Our opponents: Almeria have one of the smallest budgets, if not the smallest, in the Primera Division. They managed to stay up last year, helped by Liverpool loanee Suso (now returned to England) and Aleix Vidal, whom they sold to Sevilla for a surprisingly modest fee (€3m). Of course, the year before they sold the Segunda pichichi Charles for about half that to Celta.
To fill the gap, Tomer Hemed, ex-Mallorca man, has come in on a free, and Espanyol have loaned Thievy Bifouma to them. Villarreal has history with both those guys. The surprising thing so far has been how close Almeria has played everyone, and how good their defense has been. Elche drew 2-2 with them last time out, and that was the first match all season they've allowed two goals....but also only the second time they've scored two. An away win against Real Sociedad and a tight 1-0 loss at home to Atleti are good results; drawing with Cordoba at home (1-1) and a 1-0 loss at Getafe, not as good. Still, they seem to be moving toward the La Liga average, and average for Almeria is good.
Villarreal: The news this week is Jaume Costa and Chechu Dorado are in the team list, though since Adrian Marin is there too, my guess is Costa won't be starting. Gerard and Javier Espinosa are dropped for technical reasons (expect to see them in Europa League action this Thursday). The full team call is:
- Asenjo, Juan Carlos;
- Mario, Jaume Costa, Adrián Marín, Gabriel, Dorado, Víctor Ruiz;
- Bruno, Cani, Trigueros, Pina, Jonathan dos Santos, Moi Gómez, Cheryshev;
- Giovani, Uche and Vietto.
As Robin mentioned on the podcast (or tried to--Skype was having problems!) Gio and Uche look to be the first-choice strike pair for sure, and Vietto is an excellent second-half spark.
My anticipated lineup:
Asenjo; Mario, Ruiz, Gabriel, Marin; Moi, Bruno, Trigueros, Cheryshev; Gio and Uche
Prediction: I'll say 2-1 to Villarreal, I'd feel more like predicting a third goal if we weren't coming off the layoff.
Note: All of the Villarreal USA braintrust (such as we are) are traveling on Sunday, so please use this as the gamethread post also, and make comments on here. Thanks and ENDAVANT VILLARREAL