It’s time for Villarreal to begin play in the most badly-organized and useless cup competition in Europe. That’s right, folks, it’s the Copa del Rey! Not for us one-legged ties where we might play at home, might not, like the FA Cup. Certainly not one-legged ties at the home of the lower-placed side, like France. No, this is Spain, and so all the ties, from this point on, are over two legs, so the chance of a real upset is reduced and the embarassment to big clubs can be lessened. it makes no financial sense, it makes no sporting sense, but it’s the law!!
Okay, that out of the way, all this tie is good for is to get some of our players who don’t get to play much a chance to shine. Pau, Chuca, Leo Suarez—they should all get a start at the Estadio El Toralín.
Our opponents: Ponferradina is the team name, the town is Ponferrada (comes from the Latin for Ironbridge, the bridge in this case being reinforced with medieval iron so pilgrims on the way to Santiago de Compostela wouldn’t fall into the Sil River. But I digress.
Ponferradina have to be the weakest team, on paper, we’ve ever faced at this point in the competition. They are in the Segunda B, group I, and they are next to bottom—one win and six points from 10 matches. They defeated Rapido Bouzas (currently 6th in their group), Atletico Baleares, currently lying fifth in Villarreal B’s Segunda B group, and then defeated Gimnastica Segovia, lying just ahead of them in 18th in their group, 1-0 in Segovia. Not exactly an awe-inspiring cup run.
Ponfe have lost four straight in the Segunda B, and goals have been hard to come by. Their leading scorer is 35 year-old Yuri de Souza, who was part of Ponfe sides that narrowly missed the Segunda playoffs in 2012/13 and 2014/15, when they finished seventh both times. He’s been at Ponferradina since 2009 (apart from a brief jaunt to China) and has scored 91 times for them.
And maybe that’s a good indication of Ponfe’s roster. Up in the nether reaches of Castile and Leon, they don’t have obvious feeder clubs, they aren’t a trendy destination for guys with a bit of Primera experience who just never quite made it. They have a roster of Segunda/Seguda B veterans, guys who played for B teams at places like Madrid, Sevilla, or Athletic Bilbao but never even got a look with the first team. And mostly, it’s a pretty stable roster.
Coach Carlos Terrazas is in his first year at the club; the 55 year-old Bilbao native coached Guadalajara and Mirandés before this. (he has a 0-1-1 record against Villarreal with Guadalajara in 2012-13).
Look for Ponfe to try to develop (and ride) some early emotion, play for corners and set-pieces, and hope to frustrate the visitors.
All-time record: We have 2 wins in the league, but in the 2012-13 Copa del Rey, they eliminated us at home 2-0. That match was noteworthy mostly for the presence of Jaume Costa as a winger (really!!), a red card to Bruno, and some inspired comments on our website after the loss that turned out to be quite prescient, as Villarreal struggled under then-coach Velasquez.
Villarreal connection: It took some digging, but I came up with Marquitos, who played for Ponfe in the 2013-14 season. The last player we actually transferred there was Fofo (Adolfo Enriquez Garcia) who as I recall was a C and B team striker with us and went to Ponfe in the January of 2012, where he remained for two-plus years.
Trivia: Did you know that Ponfe striker Yuri is the cousin of Charles? (ex-Malaga, Celta, Almeria, now with Eibar) Well, he is. Charles and Yuri played together at Pontevedra from 2005-09, but Charles made it to the Primera, Yuri never has.
And one more: Ponferrada has a 12th-century Knights Templar castle, and the story goes that when Ponferradina was founded in 1922, the head honchos, doubtless fortified by some of the excellent local Bierzo wine, thought it would be a great idea to build their new stadium inside the castle. King Alfonso XIII denied the building permit, depriving us of what would have been a rather unique ruination of a historical monument.
Prediction: Ponfe 1-2 Villarreal. Leo Suarez should impress, and Unal will score one of our goals in what may be one of his last appearances for the Submarine before he gets loaned out in January, I think.