Villarreal host Espanyol at the Ceramíca in a round-of-16 Copa del Rey match. Should we really care about the Cup? Not unless we can win it and get into Europe that way, and the odds of that happening are probably worse than that of us turning our season around and making up 9 points on Betis, who are currently in the last guaranteed European spot.
Do we care about the Cup? Sort of. Typically what happens at this point is we go for it in the first leg (which is at home this time); if it doesn’t work out, well, them’s the breaks.
Rotation has to be the reason to watch this one. Andrés will be in goal, Bacca and Toko Ekambi will probably play up front. We might even see Vicente Iborra’s Villarreal debut, if his work papers come through in time. No Bruno, Miguelón, or Manu Morlanes, but everyone else is theoretically available. It would be nice to see Bacca and Toko E make such an impression that they get to start in league matches—of course, it would be even better if Gerard could get himself untracked and start scoring goals, wouldn’t it.
Espanyol are—well, Espanyol. After a start to the season which saw them pick up 21 points in their first 11 matches (yeah, we’re envious) helped along by a six-match unbeaten streak, they came to their senses and promptly dropped six in a row before edging Leganés last weekend. They’re still eighth in the table, but if history is any guide, they’ll end up sliding down the table but avoiding relegation.
We are unlikely to see him in the Copa, but Digeo López is still with the parakeets, so too Hernán Pérez and Leo Baptistao.
Prediction: There’s no real point in predicting the result of this match, but what we’d like to see is some sort of balance between attack and defense. Since taking over our new coach has talked a good game and the team has shown some heart on the pitch, but draws aren’t going to cut it—and allowing the opposition 20+ shots er game isn’t going to cut it either. Maybe creaky Daniele Bonera can remind everyone what defense is. Or maybe not. So I’ll go for what I would like to see: a 3-0 Villarreal win with each of our strikers scoring once.
If the match ends up in a draw—especially a score draw—expect us to pretty much play a B team in the return leg, with a big match against Athletic Club looming. If we win today, it’ll probably be a side much like this. Endavant!