Villarreal make the shortish trip to Barcelona to take on Espanyol. The blue-and-white "parakeets" have had a slow start to the season, with just one win from their last six outings (that being a 2-1 win at Osasuna). They’ve tallied nine times—same as Villarreal—but have given up 14 goals to our four.
Head-to-head record: In the Primera, Villarreal is 12-15-5 against Espanyol, including a 4-9-3 record away. Espanyol’s last victory at home was actually in the 2007-08 season (3-0), and of course that year we finished second in the league (with 77 points!).
Last season: This fixture was one of our more entertaining matches, a late Musacchio header giving us a 2-2 draw. Gerard Moreno and Felipe Caicedo were the Espanyol scorers, and Manu Trigueros had our other tally. This was the match where Eric Bailly was subbed at halftime after a poor performance, you may remember.
Espanyol this season: Quique Sanchez Flores returned from England to take up the coaching reins at Espanyol. Maybe it’s the age of some of the players, who knows, but so far Espanyol have given up goals late in matches—6 after the 70th minute in 6 matches, and no clean sheets. Their attack is pretty good, with ex-Villarreal men Hernán Pérez, Gerard Moreno and Leo Baptistao. Pablo Piatti is injured; Felipe Caicedo is still available, though, and always seems to play well against us. However, Sergio Garcia is gone, and so too is Marco Asensio, who was impressive last year on loan from Madrid.
Last week Quique went with a 4-3-3 against Celta, which didn’t really produce much. I’d look for a 4-4-2 as against Malaga, with Baptistao and Gerard up top.
Villarreal: Confidence is high as our results have been good and our injury list shorter. Here are the 19 players making the trip (one will be dropped before the match):
- Keepers: Asenjo and Andrés Fernández.
- Defenders: Mario, Rukavina, Jaume Costa, Víctor Ruiz, Musacchio and Álvaro.
- Midfielders: Bruno, Rodri, Trigueros, Jonathan dos Santos, Samu Castillejo, Soriano and Cheryshev.
- Strikers: Sansone, Pato, Santos Borré and Bakambu.
N’Diaye, José Ángel, Jokic, Bonera, Barbosa are all rested.
I’d expect our usual Mario-Musacchio-Ruiz-Jaume Costa back line, Samu C-Bruno-Trigueros-Soriano midfield, and Sansone and Pato. Bakambu, Cheryshev and Jona dos Santos all available off the bench.
Prediction: Espanyol 1-2 Villarreal. Though Diego Lopez in the Espanyol goal will make things difficult for us.