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After Rapid, Villarreal prepare for a huge match in Vallecas

Did what happened in Vienna give us any insights as to how things will play out versus Rayo?

Rayo Vallecano v Villarreal CF - La Liga Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Say what you will about Javi Calleja, he did try some interesting things on Thursday. The 3-5-2/4-4-2 (worked well for a bit), flipping players from side to side (didn’t work so well). But, taken in conjunction with Calleja’s press conference after the Levante match, who played and who didn’t was especially interesting.

The Rayo match on Sunday is probably the most important league match Villarreal has played....well, maybe since the Atleti match at the end of 2011-12. Why? With Real Sociedad’s defeat of Levante today, the Submarine is falling further behind the middle of the pack, never mind the front. Evan a win at Rayo will take us, at best, to 14th place. And a loss—or a draw— would leave us as part of a group of five or six teams for whom avoiding relegation would now become the primary—maybe the only—goal, as that bottom group begins to drift away from the middling clubs in La Liga, never mind the really good ones.

So: who will definitely start on Sunday? Look for Samuel Chukwueze and Miguelon Llambrich for sure, Trigueros and Iturra in the middle; something like:

Asenjo; Miguelon, Funes Mori, Alvaro, Jaume Costa; Iturra, Trigueros; Samu, Fornals, Pedraza (?) (this is what I am least sure about), and Ekambi.

Santi Cazorla is not going to be able to play 90 minutes on the back of 90 minutes in Vienna, so I figure he will be on the bench. Fornals and Ekambi were subs on Thursday so should be quite fresh.

The travelling party has not yet been announced but I would believe, if Calleja really thinks the problem is between the ears (and I think he has to think that), dropping Gerard from the starting XI, going with the youngsters who have something to prove, and relying on the internationals (Ekambi, Fornals, Funes Mori, Pedraza) is the way to go. We shall see.