Based on last year’s La Liga table, if I told you Villarreal and Valencia were within a point of each other after four matches, you’d probably figure they’d both be in the top third of the table, not 14th and 17th respectively. But, with only one win between them in eight matches, this is a Derbi de la Comunitat between two struggling clubs.
Valencia have drawn away to Levante and lost to Espanyol, while drawing at home against Atletico Madrid and Betis. More worringly for Los Che fans, the team just hasn’t shown much spark.
On the other hand, Villarreal have shown a mystifying ability to dominate matches but somehow fail to put teams away, and then give up goals through individual errors. The Submarine’s least impressive performance of the season, at Leganés, was its only win, while in two home losses (Real Sociedad and Girona) the Submarine got plenty of chances to score goals—29 shots in the two games.
Valencia may be without Daniel Wass, Ezequiel Garay and Geoffrey Kongobia, who are all battling injuries, while Denis Cheryshev can’t play against us since he is on loan. We should see ex-Villarreal and Arsenal man Gabriel at center back, though.
Villarreal are without Bruno, Santi Caceres and Javi Fuego for sure; beyond that, everyone seems to be healthy enough though not necessarily in fine form.
Marcelino sets up his teams to counterattack vertically—we know that—so a 4-4-2 with Funes Mori in the pivote might be tried again, if the Argentine has recovered from his injury on Thursday. Gerard Moreno is sure to get a start, I would think a back line of Mario, Alvaro, Victor Ruiz and Jaume Costa would be required.
All-time record: Villarreal have pulled ahead in the league, 16-7-13, with 51 goals for and 48 against. The overall record is still in favor of Valencia, 17-9-18.
Prediction: This one has a low-scoring, cagey battle written all over it, doesn’t it! And with each coach knowing that a loss brings them ever closer to the dreaded hot seat, we may see some very nervous players out there, which doesn’t bode well for either side. I figure 2-2 is about right, then!