Villarreal made it to the semifinals of the Copa del Rey for the first time last season, but this year our Copa campaign is in danger of ending before it really gets started. Huesca picked up an important victory last weekend in the Segunda over Almeria so come to El Madrigal full of confidence, protecting a 3-2 lead from the first leg in Alcoraz.
Darwin Machis notched the goal that has Huesca currently ahead; it's safe to say he, or one of his teammates, will need to score in this match for Huesca to have a chance to progress, because it's not likely Villarreal will play as badly as they did in the first leg or fail to get at least one goal in this match.
Still, Huesca's best chance is probably going to be to put pretty much everyone in their defensive area as much as they can, clog up our passing lanes, and neutralize Cedric Bakambu's speed. Villarreal doesn't have a good crosser of the ball, really, so it's not a bad strategy to pack the box. However, the shiftiness of Denis Suarez and Samu Castillejo might be key.
The unknown is how the Submarine will come out mentally for this one. The euphoria of beating Real Madrid was great, but now it's time to get back on the pitch and a match where we figure to have to try to break down a side who are intent on defending is always difficult. The longer Huesca can hold out, the more nervous Villarreal fans (and perhaps players) will become, so notching a goal or two early on is key.
Villarreal are without Jaume Costa and Bojan Jokic, so I would not be too surprised to see a back four of Rukavina, Iñiguez, Ruiz and Adrian Marín. I don't expect both Nahuel and Bakambu to start, but I hope Bruno is in midfield this time--his freekick skills could be quite important.
This competition needs to be overhauled--it's ridiculous that everything is over two legs once the big boys enter until the final. So far only Malaga has lost to a lower-division side on the pitch (Mirandés, whom we remember well), though Cadiz has progressed at the expense of Real Madrid off it.
Madrid's elimination has opened the door a bit for us to dream, I suppose, but to be honest while I would like to see us do well I am not going to be terribly bothered about it. The format this year has the two legs of the Round of 16, quarterfinals and semifinals being played in midweek of six consecutive weeks in January and February, while the final isn't played until May. (Oh, and the two matches against Napoli in the Europa League Round of 32 are the following two midweeks!!)
That is incredibly stupid, first of all, and I'd prefer to see us concentrate on the league and trying to get past Napoli. Does that mean I don't want to progress tomorrow? No, of course not, but I'm not going to be terribly concerned if and when we do bow out of this competition. We have more important competitions to target.
Prediction: Villarreal 2-0 Huesca.