After an exciting week in Europe, Villarreal now turn their attention back to La Liga and two matches in Madrid, the first of these in Vallecas against Rayo Vallecano.
This tie will be tougher than the gap in the table might suggest. Rayo have played well at home, for the most part, defeating Celta 3-0, drawing 2-2 with Sevilla. 6-4-6 at home is not bad; the problem is Rayo are dreadful away, with only one win all season. The Lightning are completing their fifth successive season in La Liga, a record for them; whether they will be around for a sixth will depend largely on matches like this. A win for them would be huge--they are on 31 points, Granada 30, Sporting, Getafe and Levante all on 28.
Coach Paco Jemez typically drills his charges to attack, attack, attack (which sometimes results in debacles like their 10-2 loss in the Bernabeu) but of late he's taken a more pragmatic approach. Rayo's last match was a 1-0 loss at Athletic Club, and before that they had the 2-0 win over Getafe, a 2-2 draw with Granada, 1-1 with Eibar....not really Rayo-type scorelines if you think back to past seasons.
Villarreal squad: Bruno and Rukavina are sanctioned, Pina, Casteillejo, Jaume Costa and Musacchio out through injury (not sure how serious the first three are). Bonera returns, surely Adrian Marin will start; Nahuel, Alfonso Pedraza, and Rodri all return to the lineup. Marcelino noted we got some rest in the second half of the Sparta Prague match, he'll make some changes but not sure how many.
- Keepers: Asenjo and Areola.
- Defenders: Mario, Adrián Marín, Bonera, Víctor Ruiz y Eric Bailly.
- Midfielders: Trigueros, Rodri, Denis Suárez, Samu García, Jonathan dos Santos, Nahuel y Alfonso.
- Strikers: Soldado, Bakambu, Leo Baptistao y Adrián López.
Rayo Vallecano: Yoel and Raul Baena are suspended, Patrick Ebert, David Cobeño and Toño injured, Jozabed and Piti doubtful. Javi Guerra is available, and Trashorras and Llorente are good in the middle of midfield and won't have Bruno Soriano to hold them back.
All-time record: Villarreal have typically done well at Vallekas, in the Primera anyway, with 4 wins and 1 draw in 6 matches. However, that one loss was in our last appearance here (2-0 in February 2015), I remember that being one of our more tepid efforts last season.
Supporter News: I believe Harry Drake will be at this match; whether he will be able to comment while there I have no idea. Give us a wave, Harry!
Prediction: For some reason, whoscored and I have been having some sort of Vulcan mind meld of late. I was thinking a score draw and see they are saying 2-2, so I'll go with that. I'd be happy with a draw, the point would be more helpful for us than it would for Rayo probably.