Villarreal head to the Basque Country for a noontime Sunday match (Spanish time) against Eibar. The team from Gipuzkoa are in their fourth season in the Primera; after surviving the first year only due to Elche’s bankruptcy, they have improved every year since under coach José Luis Mendelibar.
Eibar have built their team with a lot of free transfers and small transfer fees. Unfortunately they’ve lost players that way too, Takahashi Inui moving from Eibar to Betis on a free, for example. But there are still a lot of familiar names in the side, which is a veteran one to say the least.
Most of their young players are loanees: Marc Cucurella and Marc Cardona from Barcelona the most notable. Eibar have been able to score—Charles (remember him from Malaga? Celta? Almeria?) has six goals, and Sergi Enrich, recovered from a knee injury last season, has four.
Their midfield features veterans like Papa Diop and Fabian Orellana, signed from Valencia for €2m. Defensively, they’ve been a bit of a mess, allowing 25 goals in 17 matches—2 more than us, who have been a mess ourselves. They come in healthy except for Pedro León, who has been injured all season. Since defeating Real Madrid 2-0 in late November, they’ve been drawing—including 4-4 at home to Levante, which must have been fun to watch but driven both coaches crazy.
Villarreal: As it feels I’ve been saying for a couple of months now, the difference between the teams in sixth through nineteenth, and maybe even twentieth, just isn’t that great. A couple of wins can see you pass five or six teams and move up the table, because so many of the large group are playing each other on any given weekend. But Villarreal’s problem has been coming up with win number one, much less two in a row. With Rayo and Huesca both winning today, now would be a good time to start :)
The Yellow Submarine have to make some changes due to suspensions for both Jaume Costa and Alvaro Gonzalez. Look for Pedraza and Funes Mori to replace them—otherwise, yes, there will be some rotations I expect. Maybe Ekambi and Bacca for Santi and Gerard? Not Manu Morlanes, who played for the B team today.
All-time record: these two teams have a longer history than you’d expect, because they faced each other a lot in the 1990s in the Segunda. But over the last four seasons in the Primera, our record is 1-1-2 away, 2-1-1 home. Eibar have won the last two aways.
Prediction: I have to be honest, I haven’t seen Eibar much, and I don’t know how quickly we can turn around after our effort against Madrid. That said, our favored scoreline lately seems to be 2-2, so I’ll go with that.