Levante: The granotes started out the season with 9 points from 5 matches (including a win against us courtesy of a late penalty) but since then have picked up 9 points from their last 14, so you’d have to say reality has settled in. Their defense isn’t bad—26 goals allowed is decent enough—but scoring only 15 is relegation-zone material. The last goal a Levante player scored in the league for his side was way back on November 19 (Jason against Las Palmas). Their only goal in eight La Liga matches since then was an own goal by Americ Laporte, and they still lost.
They will be missing Toño, Alex Alegría, and Ivan López; expect them to play a 4-2-3-1 and try to play defense, mostly. USA fans should keep a lookout for Shaquell Moore, 21 year-old American defender who has seen some playing time lately.
Villarreal: With Bakambu’s departure, Bacca’s suspension and Sansone’s injury, we have exactly one player in our squad who has scored more than one goal this season (Fornals). The squad is:
Keepers: Asenjo, Barbosa
Defenders: Mario, Álvaro, Adrián Marín, Ruiz, Jaume Costa, Rukavina, Bonera
Midfielders: Cheryshev, Fornals, Castillejo, Trigueros, Rodrigo, Ramiro, Raba
Strikers: Enes Ünal, Roger Martínez
Expect Roger to come on as a sub, not start, so probably we go with our usual 4-3-1-2 with Raba and Ünal up front (though possibly Chery for Raba?).
Daniele Bonera became the second oldest player to feature for Villarreal in the Primera last week, but he probably rests in favor of Ruiz now.
All-time record: Villarreal is 5-1-2 at home against Levante; when we last met (February 2016) Villarreal won 3-0 with goals from Adrian, Castillejo, and Baptistao. Matias Nahuel was in our starting lineup that day, Soldado and Bakambu on the bench, while Giuseppe Rossi started for Levante.
Trivia: Enes Unal already set a record by scoring for Villarreal in his first match with us, Levante in his first match on loan there, and then scoring for Villarreal again on his first match back. He might as well score against Levante just to complete the circle, as it were.
Prediction: Nervy, but a 2-0 win.