Villarreal visit Malaga, currently bottom of the table, in a match that has European implications for the Yellow Submarine, while for the home side, anything they can grab from this match would be great as they are almost certainly headed for the drop after 10 years in the Primera.
TV: If you have beinSport in the US you had better be able to use their streaming service, because they’re showing Eibar-Real Sociedad on their second (Spanish) TV channel according to my listings.
Villarreal: The mood is much better after two straight wins, and Nicola Sansone’s return to the lineup also helps a lot. Manu Trigueros is out, which gives Javi Fuego a chance to come in to partner Rodri; other than that, Denis Cheryshev hasn’t been included in the squad and Bruno Soriano is still ‘recuperating’.
The Yellows often have trouble against the bottom sides, so I expect a fairly defensive midfield (Soriano/Rodri/Fuego/Fornals) to start, but Samu Castillejo could well come on for Javi Fuego if we decide we need more firepower. Then again, Calleja likes Dani Raba, so maybe he gets in there. I’d think Bacca and Sansone would play up top, saving Ünal for around the 65th minute or so.
Malaga: The Malaga ‘project’ has had its ups and downs, but of late, mostly downs. Since 2012 something like €150m has been realized from player sales, but very little of that has been reinvested in the club. Look at the names that have left: Isco, Santi Cazorla, Samu Castillejo, Camacho, Fornals, Sandro, Nacho Monreal, Solomon Rondon, Willy Caballero, Jeremy Toulalan....
And in their place? Pretty slim pickings. Malaga don’t score much—16 times in 29 matches--and while their defense isn’t too bad (45 goals allowed), they just don’t create a lot of spark, failing to score in 11 of their last 14 matches. And some of their better players are out for this one, including Juanpi, Recio, Federico Ricca, and Juan Carlos Perez. Which illustrates how unimpressive their roster really is.
Their last win was in December, away to Real Sociedad, and their last home win was against Depor in November. Coach José González hasn’t had a win yet.
All-time record: In the Primera, it’s pretty close. Villarreal have dominated at home (8-4-3) but are 4-5-5 in Malaga. Last year we won this 2-0 (goals from Jaume Costa and Sansone) and we won 2-0 at home, both goals from Sansone. Malaga’s last win against us was back in April 2014, also 2-0 (Santa Cruz, Darder).
Prediction: I should say 2-0, but I’ll say 2-1 to Villarreal, just because I can’t believe Malaga’s attack can really be that bad—they have to score sometime.
This is the sort of match though that Villarreal can sometimes make a real hash of, so these three points shouldn’t be taken for granted. I don’t think it will be easy, but I expect in the end we’ll pick up the win.