Villarreal host Malaga on Sunday—in spite of the boquerones currently sitting just off the bottom of the table, this match might be a tough one for us.
Malaga: Malaga endured a horrible preseason—the only team they defeated was us, sadly enough—and they sold Camacho, Ramirez, Fornals, and Kameni, adding to the string of players (Isco, Monreal, Willy Caballero, Sergi Darder, Juanmi, Samu Castillejo, Samu Garcia, Amrabat) they’ve sold in the last five years. Well over €150m worth.
They did bring in a couple of good loanees, Borja Baston and Diego Rolan, and signed a few players, including defender Paul Baysse from Nice. But it’s a strange group of youngsters and a few guys (Recio, Rosales) who have been in Andalusia for several years now. It must feel very strange to be a Malaga fan and remember that 2012-13 side that narrowly missed out on the Champions League semis.
Diego Rolan is out, Diego Gonzalez is doubtful, and I’m not sure about Recio, who picked up his fifth yellow and then a red for good measure. He was suspended for one match, I don’t know if he misses this one as well.
Malaga have no points on the road, and in fact haven’t even scored in five matches, conceding 11 goals. Our job is to make sure that continues tomorrow.
Villarreal: Unfortunately, the Yellow Submarine is going to be a little shorthanded for this one. Alvaro Gonzalez and Manu Trigueros are both sidelined, having picked up five yellow cards already, and Jaume Costa, Leo Suarez and Samu Castillejo are all injured. So expect something like:
Barbosa; Mario, Victor Ruiz, Bonera, Adrian Marín (or Rukavina); Rodri; Cheryshev, Fornals, Roberto Soriano; Sansone and Bakambu.
Note that Rodri and Baka are each one yellow card away from being suspended for the Bilbao match on the 19th, too, so don’t be totally surprised if it’s Sansone and Bacca starting (I think Rodri has to).
All-time record: Villarreal has a slight edge, 11-8-9 overall, but the matches have always been tight. Since 2008-09, when Malaga returned to the top flight, we are 4-3-1 at home, but the scores have been 0-2, 2-1, 1-1, 2-1, 1-1, 2-1, 1-0, 1-1.
Prediction: I’m going to go with a tight 1-0 win, given the history above and our makeshift lineup. Endavant Villarreal!!!