Villarreal take on big-city neighbors Valencia tomorrow in a match that should be entertaining, though nerveracking at the same time. The Yellow Submarine has generally played pretty well at home, but (in spite of currently lying fifth) questions remain about the team. Are the two Samus going to show they're worth the money we paid for them? Is Denis Suarez going back to Barcelona? Are we too reliant on Soldado and Bakambu?
Valencia have a similar slew of questions. Nuno is gone, Gary Neville has replaced him as coach, but did he simply get the job because of his ties to Peter Lim? Early results haven't been great. What about Jorge Mendes--is he really running the transfer show at Valencia? And what does Lim really think of all this, and what do Valencia fans--notoriously quick to turn on their own team when things don't go well--think of happenings so far?
This is a big match for all that, but also because if Villarreal wins, they go fourth--33 points from 17 matches--while Valencia would be 11 points back and without a win in the league since early November. But if Valencia win, they're only five points back of us.
Teams: As reported earlier, Eric Bailly is out for Villarreal--a big miss--as is Jaume Costa, who came up in Valencia's youth system. But we do have Mario Gaspar back, and we finally can select three strikers for the first time in ages, with Leo Baptistao returning to the lineup.
Valencia have injury problems too, with Diego Alves, Jose Gaya, and Sofiane Feghouli out, as well as Shkodran Mustafi, who has been outstanding in the center of Valencia's defense. Ex-Villarreal youth keeper Jaume Domenech figures to start and have some extra motivation to do well in El Madrigal.
Up front Los Che are impressive, with Negredo, Santi Mina and Paco Alcacer all raring to go, while in midfield Dani Perego and Javi Fuego should see action.
Prediction: Channeling our well-known optimist Robin, I will go for 2-1 to Villarreal.