Villarreal play Valencia tomorrow (kickoff at noon California time) at the Mestalla in a match that is full of interesting subplots. The home side, of course, has had a tumultuous first part of the season, with Marcelino dismissed, fans’ demonstrations against owner Peter Lim, Mateu Alemany’s dismissal, etc. etc. etc.
On the pitch, though, Valencia are still in with a chance of progressing to the knockout rounds of the Champions League—which would be great for them, as they need the money to pay down debt this summer. And after a slow start to the season, they are playing better. They’re only 10th on 20 points, two ahead of us, but are undefeated so far this season at home (3 wins, 4 draws).
For all the talent on this team, though, so far this season it’s been Maxi Gomez and Dani Parejo (six goals each—Parejo’s mostly from penalties) who have really carried the team. New coach Celades has kept Marcelino’s 4-4-2 with Rodrigo Moreno and Gomez as the striker pair (Kevin Gamiero has struggled to make an impact this season). Parejo is the midfield boss, and a very good one, deserving of a Spain callup that hasn’t happened yet. Daniel Wass, Geoffrey Kondgobia, Gayá, etc.— the talent is there, but it hasn’t really come together yet.
Whoscored has Valencia’s team rating in La Liga at 6.62, 13th in the league, while Villarreal’s is 6.80, third. That may be largely a function of expected goals, I don’t know, but the individual scores suggest that apart from Parejo and Gomez, most of the team hasn’t really played up to potential. (Of course, Whoscored is also predicting a 3-1 home win, sooooo....)
And for this match, Los Che have a lot of injuries. Denis Cheryshev is out, Battling Jaume Costa is doubtful, and Ezequiel Garay may be out too. Piccini, Guedes, Diakhaby and Kondgobia are all out.
Villarreal’s big worry is how to replace the suspended Vicente Iborra in midfield. Santy Cáceres is allegedly injured, so Manu Morlanes or Manu Trigueros could play in Iborra’s spot. Or, Moi Gomez might. Only Calleja knows.
All-time record: In the Primera, the teams have played 38 times; Villarreal have won 16, Valencia 14, and there have been 8 draws. And, each team has scored 51 goals. So it’s been pretty even. (Valencia have dominated at the Mestalla, though: Villarreal are 6-3-10 there).
Last season, Valencia put us out of the Europa League in April, winning 2-0 in the Mestalla, but back in January, Villarreal played a horrible match under Luis Garcia Plaza and lost 3-0. And the next week, Calleja was back in charge.
Prediction: If you listened to the podcast, you know that Robin and Julian both think the home team will shade this one. Robin’s prediction of a 2-1 win with a dodgy penalty for the home side could come true, but I’ll go for a draw here. I said 1-1 on the podcast, but 2-2 might be more like it. Endavant!!