Our success in Europe this week proved that we are more than capable to challenge on all fronts this season. Despite our unlucky defeat to Barcelona we have set a high standard as we prepare to face Rayo Vallecano. In a lot of ways they are a similar club to us. They have been through relegation recently and come back in spectacular form. The 2012/2013 season they came 8th. For a club with severe financial difficulties they managed to shame many pundits.
Our striker force is hampered with injuries. We will be without Gio and possibly Uche who bravely suffered a bruised shin, though word is he trained normally today and so should be in the squad.
Last season though we were without key players and we still came through. It is a lot to ask of Vietto and Gerard, but this is how great names are made. We have seen the makings of a great partnership between them. It may result in an experiment playing just one up front and have the extra man in midfield as we have done in the past. Even though it won’t be our strongest 11, it is a great opportunity to see what our squad can do.
It’s a similar situation at LB with both Costa and Jokic out. Although we haven’t got a natural LB, there is enough experience to fight. Despite his amazing debut against Granada, I suspect we will want to protect Marin from burnout. Ruiz could be asked to play at LB, he has played there before. We are unlikely to break up Mateo and Gabriel who in my unbiased opinion look the strongest CB partnership in La Liga . (NB--late word is Ruiz won't be in the squad due to a slight injury, so Marin or Rukavina should play at LB)
Rayo suffered their first defeat last weekend against Elche. There confidence will also be dented as we defeated them twice last season. In Vallecas, Villarreal won 5-2 and the return game at El Madrigal 4-0. Rayo are not without their own squad problems. They will be without Jonathan Pereira and Javier Aquino who are unable to play against us, thankfully. They will also be without centre-back Antonio Amaya and substitute goalkeeper David Cobeno who are injured.
Their coach seems to have the utmost respect for Villarreal ``They (Villarreal) are a team full of great players, they have a great attitude and a great coach.
We will be up against one of the best teams in the league and our chances rest on the pace at which we play, which will affect whether or not we can find some gaps in their defence late on in the game.''
Kick off is 5 Spanish time at home: we will be expecting an exciting game with lots of goals. My prediction is 3-1 with a brace from Vietto. ( My thanks to Robin for his assistance with the translation and congratulations on his daughter getting married)