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Villarreal—Levante PREVIEW

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Calleja needs three points to save his job, methinks.

Levante v Barcelona - La Liga
Paco Lopez on the Levante sideline
Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Game 11 of the league schedule, and so far there have been only 8 wins recorded by Valencian Community teams, and 5 of those are Levante’s.

Ex-Villarreal B coach Paco López brings the granotes to the Ceramica on the back of four consecutive wins. They’ve been using a back three in either a 3-4-1-2 or 3-5-2 formation of late, and it’s been working well. Oier Olazabal in goal has been excellent, Roger Martí (6 goals) and José Luis Morales (4) have been scoring nicely, and players like Bardhi set and Rochina in midfield have been outstanding. They will be missing centerback Erick Cabaco, who has a sprained ankle. Coke and Emmanuel Boateng are doubtful, but have made the trip.

Levante do a lot of things well, offensively; they are dangerous with direct free-kicks, they create and finish chances, and they counterattack well. On the other hand, they are susceptible to counters too, and they aren’t particularly good at defending set pieces, or keeping opponents from creating scoring opportunities. 1.6 goals per game and 12 shots per game, 44% possession on average.

Villarreal’s stats are amazingly different—0.8 goals per game on 15 shots—and that has to change if the Submarine are going to get a win from this match and keep Javi Calleja in a job. The Submarine’s only home win was in the Europa league against Rapid Vienna; they are 0-2-3 at home with losses to Valladolid, Real Sociedad and Girona. In fact, Villarreal have scored only one first-half goal this season (Gerard against Sociedad), and have only led for 24 minutes out of 450 at home. That is pathetic.

VIllarreal will be without Carlos Bacca and likely Toko Ekambi, so Gerard will have to be our solo striker, not his best role. It’s time for players like Pedraza, Gerard, Mario and Trigueros to step up and show why they’re regular starters after a string of subpar performances.Probably we’ll play a 4-2-3-1 with Caseres and Trigueros as the two, Cazorla, Fornals and Pedraza as the 3, and Mario, Alvaro, Funes Mori and Jaume Costa as the 4.

The coaching situation: Some time ago I said I thought a decision would be made on Calleja after the Rayo match, but if Villarreal lose tomorrow I believe it could be made sooner. A win would get Villarreal up to 12th in the table and some momentum ahead of the Rayo match, while (depending on other results) a loss could see us as one of a four or five-team group in danger of being unhitched from the rest of the table. Hopefully that doesn’t happen.

Prediction: I want to say with all my heart we will win tomorrow, Calleja will keep his job, and this will be the start of a lot of good things. I don’t really want to think about the alternative. I know, that’s not a prediction, but it’s all I’ve got.

I hope the crowd gets behind the team, we score a couple early, and our defense holds strong.