And so, it's time for another Valencian Community derby. Valencia CF fans tend to dismiss Villarreal as some sort of "johnny-come-lately" , while Villarreal fans, though realizing that Valencia is historically the "big club" in the region, feel, in the words of Rodney Dangerfield, "I don't get no respect".
Last year was particularly galling for Valencia since they failed to qualify for Europe at all, while Villarreal did so with relative ease. And had Levante not tripped up toward the end, Valencia would have finished third out of the Community clubs, for the first time ever.
However, this season has been different for Los Che. For a start, the ownership situation seems to have been resolved for the moment, with Singapore magnate peter Lim taking over the club. What this means for the Nou Mestalla, and whether Lim really is a knight on a white horse, remains to be seen. On the pitch, the results have been good at home, not so great away (their last road trip was a pretty bad loss to Depor). An EPM article earlier this week compared Villarreal's largely homegrown squad to Valencia's €60m net spend, but that's a bit unfair. Valencia's cantera has produced some quality players like Paco Alcácer, and some, like Isco, have been stolen against Valencia's will.
Looking at results so far, Valencia have a shining home win (3-1 against Atletico), and beat the teams at home they should beat. Their road results were 1-1 at Sevilla thanks to a late goal, a win at Getafe, draw at Sociedad, and loss to Depor.
Villarreal have lost to Barca and Madrid at home, beaten the teams they should beat at home.
Valencia: We were wondering at the start of the season who would score the goals for them. That was before they got Alvaro Negredo on loan with a certain purchase at the end of the year. He hasn't really played yet, but Alcácer, Rodrigo (ex-Benfica), and Pablo Piatti are good up front.
Valencia, perhaps taking a page form Villarreal's book--though they'll never admit it--opened up a practice to the fans this week, but unfortunately it was the one where Dani Parejo, who has been running things from midfield, injured his hamstring. He'll be out a month, which is a loss for them.
Their call is:
- Goalkeepers: Alves, Yoel, Defenders: Barragan, Cancelo, Mustafi, Otamendi, Vezo, Gaya, Midfielders: Filipe Augusto, Javi Fuego, André Gomes, De Paul, Feghouli, Carles Gil, Roberto Forwards: Rodrigo, Negredo, Piatti, Alcácer.
Plenty of danger men here, though Feghouli and Gil have not been 100%, and Negredo saw his first action last week against Elche (about 10 minutes worth).
Villarreal: The injury list is growing shorter, though the presence of Mateo Musacchio on it for a "good while", as Marcelino said, is worrying.
- Goalkeepers: Asenjo, Juan Carlos; Defenders: Mario, Rukavina, Jaume Costa, Gabriel, Dorado; Midfielders: Bruno, Trigueros, Jonathan dos Santos, Pina, Espinosa, Moi Gómez, Cheryshev, Cani; Forwards: Giovani, Gerard Moreno, Vietto and Uche.
Adrian Marín will probably play in the Europa League match on Thursday, but for now isn't included here; Victor Ruiz, being on loan form Valencia, can't play against them. Gabriel has been under the weather a bit but should be OK.
Predicted lineup: Asenjo; Mario, Dorado, Gabriel, Jaume Costa; Moi, Bruno, Trigueros, Cani; Gio and Uche.
My prediction: I can see this going several different ways. I hope Villarreal learned their lesson from the Sevilla match, and if we get a lead, don't sit back late and let the opposition exercise sustained pressure--we have shown time after time we don't have the defensive strength to withstand this, especially with Musacchio and Ruiz missing.
Valencia are talking the talk ahead of this match, there's no question they want to atone for last year's 4-1 whipping in El Madrigal. Let's hope their fans are better behaved this time, regardless of the result (the away end will be more strongly policed than before, as this is a "high-risk" fixture).
I'm going to say 2-1 to Villarreal largely based on our success against Valencia in El Madrigal, but I wouldn't bet on it....