Villarreal welcome Las Palmas to the Ceramica on Sunday for the early match on that day, looking to extend our winning streak in the league under Javi Calleja. Villarreal have dropped Enes Unal from their call for this one, going with the following 18:
Keepers: Barbosa, Cantero.
Defenders: Mario Gaspar, Rukavina, Jaume Costa, Bonera, Álvaro, Víctor Ruiz.
Midfielders: Rodrigo, Trigueros, Fornals, Soriano, Samu Castillejo, Cheryshev, Ramiro Guerra (dorsal 26).
Strikers: Bakambu, Bacca, Sansone.
Not sure we should read too much into Unal’s being dropped—he did start in midweek—but he has not impressed so far, maybe we look to loan him out in January. That would at least give Leo Suarez a chance to get in the first team. Adrian Marin has received medical clearance, but doesn’t get selected yet either—I think we’ll see him debut the Copa against Ponferradina.
The visitors: Las Palmas got off to a good start last season, but then it all came unglued. Kevin-Prince Boateng departed, so too did coach Quique Setien. And new boss Pako Ayesteran has found the going a little tough, though they should improve once they get through the first half of their schedule. On the road, they defeated Malaga 3-1 and lost to Valencia and Sevilla (each 1-0) and Barcelona (3-0); now they face Villarreal. (And, they have already played Atleti and Athletic Club at home, defeating the latter). So they are a better club than their current 18th position would suggest.
They have Vitolo until the end of December; they have Jonathan Viera, Jonathan Calleri, Loic Remy, and Alen Halilovic (currently injured) so you’d think they could score some goals. Defense has been spotty though.
All-time record: Villarreal’s record against the islanders is pretty good (3-0-1 in Primera matches in Vila-real) but they’ve been tough on us of late. We did win this fixture last year, 2-1, with the Las Palmas goal being one of the goals of the year, a great team play finished off by a Boateng volley, while Cedric Bakambu scored our winner with the last kick of the match. As I recall, Las Palmas had a good penalty shout turned down, too.
Las Palmas won 1-0 at El Madrigal in the 2015-16 season, in what I remember as one of the poorest matches Villarreal played that year. Defender David Garcia, who is still with them, got the only goal.
Prediction: I think this is going to be a tougher fixture than many expect; I am going with 2-1 Villarreal but to be honest I’ll be happy with three points, however they come. Endavant!!