Villarreal welcome Eibar to the Ceramica on Sunday as Javi Calleja makes his home debut (and La Liga debut) as Villarreal head coach.
Our opponents: Eibar have won two matches against teams they probably need to beat (Leganes and Malaga), have lost to two teams they wouldn’t figure to beat (Sevilla and Barcelona)....but, last week they were embarassed 4-0 by Celta at home, and their supporters are beginning to get a little worried.
Part of the reason for the concern is the defense, which has allowed 10 goals in the last two matches, but the offense isn’t clicking either—only 3 goals in the six games so far this season. But long-term injuries to Fran Rico and Ivan Alejo, Pedro Leon, Ivan Ramis and goalkeeper Yoel are the real worries. Eibar are relying a lot on Inui, Enrich, Bébé, and Charles, and they have not produced a great deal so far.
Last season they lined up in a 4-4-2 (and have this season), we should expect to see that again.
Villarreal: Javi Calleja tried a different formation on Thursday with a diamond midfield, and it showed some promise—though the inability of our strikers to finish chances resulted in a 0-0 draw. Calleja wants more intensity and possession that Escribá, and seems to be interested in deploying Manu Trigueros on a wing rather than in midfield. Injuries are not a concern so much in the short term, but players’ form is, and figuring exactly which players work best where is something Calleja has to get a handle on quickly.
I expect Samu Castillejo to start this match, would not be shocked to see Sansone (remember him?) partner Bakambu—who seems to be omnipresent. Personally I’d be tempted to play Fornals as the mediapunta, with Casti and Manu on the wings and Rodri in midfield, behind the front two? Or Cheryshev somewhere? We have a lot of offensive firepower, but putting it together effectively has been something of a puzzle.
Trivia: Eibar defeated Joaquin Caparrós’s Villarreal side 5-1 at El Madrigal on September 26, 1999 (in the Segunda); Caparros was fired the following week after defeat at Elche. The 5-1 result remains the largest margin of victory for either team in this series.
All-time record: Since Eibar joined the Primera, our record is 2-2-2, 8 goals for, 8 against. 1-1-1 at home, 1-1-1 on the road, 4 goals for and against each place. Last season we lost this fixture 3-2, with both goals from Roberto Soriano; this was the match with the blatant Florian Lejeune handball.....
Prediction: I have no idea why anyone should pay attention to my predictions at this point, given how well I’ve started off....but 2-1 Villarreal