Keepers: S. Asenjo, Andrés Fdez.
Defenders: Mario, Albiol, Pau, Funes Mori, Quintillà, Rubén Peña
Midfielders: Chukwueze, Iborra, M. Trigueros, Morlanes, Anguissa, Moi, Ontiveros
Strikers: Gerard, Bacca, Toko Ekambi
No Santi, still recovering from his ankle sprain; no Caceres (sigh) and no Alberto Moreno.
Predicted starting XI: Asenjo; Mario, Albiol, Pau, Quintillà; Trigueros, Iborra, Anguissa, Moi, Chukwueze, Gerard.
Sevilla are missing Lucas Ocampos (suspended) and Nolito is questionable. Look for Oliver Torres (remember him?) to start for the home side, and Luuk de Jong, too. Sevilla have been getting fine play from the veteran Ever Banega in midfield—he is their creative spark; while their defense has been strong, especially their fullbacks, young Reguilón on the left and ageless Jesus Navas on the right.
Sevilla are third in the table, but it’s been achieved through grinding out victories, not blowing teams out. They’ve only scored 20 times in 16 matches, but then they’ve only conceded 15 times. Ocampos, their leading scorer, is out, but expect lots of crosses to come in from those fullbacks....and throughballs from Banega in midfield.
Head-to-head record: Villarreal have had a tough time in the Sánchez Pijuán—2-4-11. The only bright spot is the last three matches between these two teams here have been draws; 0-0 last season in week two of the season when Pablo Machín was managing Sevilla.
(If you’d like to read about the ground’s history, there’s a detailed writeup in English here).
Prediction: Maybe it’s Villarreal being in a funk, maybe it’s the unrelenting rain here over the past week or so, but I’m finding ot hard to be optimistic about this one. We’ll miss Santi in midfield, and we just seem to be going through a phase where we can’t score—and Sevilla don’t allow many goals at home anyway. 2-0 Sevilla.