San Pascual festivities draw to a close in Vila-real today, and so does the home season for Villarreal. Our home form has been fairly dismal, inasmuch as we haven't been able to convert draws into wins. Our record is 11-1-6; failure to convert some of those home losses in to at least draws has hurt us (as has our tendency to drawn on the road, 11 of 18 times).
The visitors: Malaga have been pretty mediocre this season, in all honesty, but mediocrity might just be good enough to qualify for Europe with a final push. Last year they finished 11th on 45 points after flirting with relegation for the first half of the season, so things are looking up.
I've been impressed with Nordin Amrabat, on lona from Galatasaray; he has six goals for them this season. The goals have been spread around: youth product Juanmi has eight, Samuel Garcia has five, and Javi Guerra, loaned from Cardiff, has three.
Malaga's best player is unquestionably Sergi Darder, an attacking midfielder who burst on the scene last season. And Carlos Kameni's performances in goal have been excellent, enough to keep memo Ochoa permanently on the bench. He's given up 43 goals, not bad.
There have been highs (winning in the Camp Nou, defeating Valencia, drawing with Atleti) but too many poor results--losses to Levante, Granada, Elche, Eibar....). The overall impression is of a team that's okay , won't get blown out often or blow out anyone often, but blows hot or cold depending. Sort of appropriate they play in gray away kit, I think--they're sort of a drab side.
Villarreal: Last week's victory ensures we finish sixth in the table again. So do we have anything to play for? Not tangibly, but Marcelino did say after we were eliminated from the EL his goal was to see us beat last year's point total in the league (59) and a win would do that. And it would be great to close the home season with a win on the last day of the municipal celebrations.
While it might have been nice to give a lot of B-teamers some time, the fact this game means something as far as the final Europe spot is concerned doesn't encourage experimentation, and in fact Marce has named a reasonably standard squad of 18 for this match:
- Keepers: Juan Carlos y Aitor (dorsal 31).
- Defenders: Mario, Rukavina, Jaume Costa, Jokic, Dorado, Bailly y Víctor Ruiz.
- Midfielders: Trigueros, Jonathan dos Santos, Moi Gómez, Campbell, Bruno y Sergio Marcos (26).
- Strikers: Giovani, Gerard y Vietto.
Tomas Pina and Ike Uche are still out; I'd like to see Sergio Marcos get some playing time here but expect Bruno will start in front of the home fans.
Watching/listening: Since all of the matches of this round are being played at the same time, beinsport is showing the Espanyol-Madrid and Atletico-Barca matches, no surprise there. So look for streams or listen to Javi Mata on Radio Vila-real. I tend to listen to him on the computer and watch with the sound off, and the pictures will be behind the radio anyhow!
Prediction: Villarreal 2-1 Malaga.