I mean, really. Valencia and Villarreal: the historically most-important team in the province versus the upstart “village team” is always a good derby, this year it’s got even more interest because Valencia are now coached by Marcelino and are doing rather well for themselves in the league (and since they don’t have Europe to worry about this year, fatigue shouldn’t be a problem).
Simone Zaza has been scoring goals—10 so far—and returns to the Valencia lineup. They will miss Jeison Murillo and Carlos Soler, both out with injuries, and José Gaya has a knock but is included in their squad. One thing we know for sure, Marcelino will line up in a 4-4-2. Apart from Zaza, Guedes and Dani Parejo (who was ready to leave Los Che until Marce persuaded him to stay) will be key men.
Villarreal have chosen the following squad: Asenjo and Barbosa; Mario Gaspar, Álvaro, Víctor Ruiz, Jaume Costa, Rukavina and Pau; Cheryshev, Fornals, S. Castillejo, Trigueros, Rodrigo, Soriano, Ramiro and Raba; Bacca and Bakambu.
Sansone, Bonera, Semedo, Andres Fernandez and Bruno Soriano are all unavailable, and Adrian Marin was not chosen.
All-time record: In La Liga, Villarreal have pulled ahead with a 14-7-13 record, 49 goals scored, 48 allowed. It’s been that close. And Valencia’s last win at the Mestalla was back in March 2014, 2-1. The Submarine won this fixture the past two years by 2-0 and 3-1.
Among the fascinating questions in this one: how will Rodrigo Hernandez do, after a week where it’s been announced he’ll be leaving in the summer?
Who will win the various positional battles? Midfield will be key, with Villarreal’s diamond opposing Valencia’s more traditional pivote. Which midfield can create more chances for their strikers? And can Villarreal’s fullbacks get forward to support attack effectively, or will they leave space behind that the home side can exploit? What about players like Victor Ruiz and Gabriel, playing against their old clubs?
And, will Valencia win this and go into second place, or can Villarreal extract just a bit more revenge for that day in May 2012 when a late goal sounded the beginning of the end for the Submarine in the Primera—for a year, anyway?
Most importantly for regular readers of this blog, will a Valencia win mean we get lots of Jiwonsi comments in the weeks ahead, or will a Villarreal win mean he lays low for a bit? So much riding on this one....
Prediction: I don’t see either team shutting out the other in this one, to be honest. I’ll go with a 2-2 draw, though I could see either side winning by a goal here.