Odds seem to be in Villarreal's favour for once-- no Messi, no Rakitic, Soldado allowed to play and we are essentially through to the next round of the Europa league. Confidence will be high as the team travel to Barcelona.
A lot of Barca's fans seem to be getting a bit mouthy about Soldado's yellow being rescinded. A bit hypocritical, as they have a transfer ban but can sign players.
Alves and Neymar, no doubting their quality--but diving seems to come as natural as dribbling to them.
However this will be one of the most decisive matches of the season as Villarreal press up the table toward the top places. It was Vietto that was the star player against Barca last year, but our newly found physicality might prove a challenge to Barca this time.
A bit a of debate early on the week about the pivote. Personally I am for Pina starting -- he provides a bit more defence than Manu. Manu would be the perfect super sub. Dos Santos returns to his former club and will have a point to prove against his former employees. Same for Denis Suarez, for that matter.
Our squad is pretty much what you would expect, with Bailly out. Central pairing of Bonera and Ruiz is a bit slow on pace so all the more reason for Pina and Bruno in the pivote to win those balls before Suarez and Neymar can break.
Villarreal's team is:
Goalkeeper: Barbosa and Areola.
Defence: Mario, Rukavina, Jaume Costa, Jokic, Víctor Ruiz and Bonera.
Midfielders: Bruno, Jonathan dos Santos, Pina, Trigueros, Samuel García, Samu Castillejo, Denis Suárez and Nahuel.
Strikers: Soldado and Bakambu.
Interesting that Nahuel is listed as a midfielder, I expect if he starts it will be on right wing but I prefer Jona dos there.
My prediction will be a 2-1 victory with a late goal from Suarez. Don't slate me for this one-- it is more than plausible!!
Sometime Villarreal USA writer Harry Drake will be at the match wearing yellow and sitting in the Villarreal section, it would be great if he had a lot to cheer about.