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Villarreal CF--Elche CF PREVIEW

We have developed a really nice friendly rivalry with these guys over the last couple of years, and hopefully we'll be able to continue it next year. However, Elche's salvation may depend on off-the-pitch happenings--they're already mathematically safe in the table.

Maria José Segovia

It's time for another installment in the Elche-Villarreal rivalry.  Two Valencian Community clubs with different histories: Elche were a creditable Primera club in the 1960's and 1970's, then dropped down and last season was their first Primera campaign in 25 years, while Villarreal--well, you know the story.

Elche were Segunda champions in 2012-13 when we finished second, and there was a memorable 3-2 Elche away win in El Madrigal that turned out to be our last defeat of the season (Sidarth and Laura were there to see it, starting an unfortunate stretch of home losses witnessed by Villarreal USA bloggers).

This year, they have enough points to survive in the Primera again, probably their best performance since an 11th place finish in 1976-77; however, they have off-the-field issues to worry about.  Their president left, the reins have been handed over to a new team who are trying to pay the players, and get current enough with other obligations to stay afloat.  (the Valencian Community also ended up part-owning the club, which may be another problem; stay tuned).

On the pitch, Elche owe their survival to Pescara loanee Jonathas (12 goals) and you will remember Cape Verde international Garry Rodrigues, an exciting midfielder who sets up a lot of those scores.  Four wins in their last five have made them mathematically safe on 40 points.  They're in pretty good shape for this match, but will miss goalkeeper Tyton, red-carded last time out.  Damian Suarez is out too, and Lomban and Jose Angel are unlikely to feature.

Villarreal have named Bruno Soriano and Gio dos Santos to their squad, which is great, but Uche and Pina are out (and of course Marin, Asenjo, Cheryshev and Musacchio).    Eric Bailly is in the squad and hopefully is OK to start, but with Victor Ruiz suspended, I am not looking forward to Dorado partnering either Eric or Mario ( who said during the week he might be drafted in as an emergency center-back).

On the other hand, it's the festival of San Pascual in Vila-real: my twitter feed has been full of photos of mouthwatering paellas cooked by people in the middle of the street, alternating with bulls running down (presumably) different streets.  And we have something to play for: a win ensures sixth place, regardless of the last two matchday results or whether they're even played.

Prediction:  Since I'm doing this preview instead of Robin this time, a dose of Robin's healthy optimism is required.

2-1 to Villarreal.  Endavant, boys, make it so!!