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Villarreal—Alavés PREVIEW

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There are must-win matches, and there are MUST-WIN matches. This is one of the latter.

Club Atletico de Madrid v Villarreal CF - La Liga Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

So, imagine if you will, two teams.

Team #1 goals for 25 goals against 28 Whoscored team rating 6.70

Team #2 goals for 26 goals against 33 Whoscored team rating 6.70

And yet....Team 1 (Alavés) has 10 wins on the season, Team 2 (Villarreal) has 4.

What’s going on? Looking at the splits of the home vs away gives a clue. Alaves have a +6 goal difference at home, scoring 13 and allowing only 7; Villarreal have scored 16 at home, but given up 17. Simply put, it’s the difference between 1-1 draws and 1-0 wins.

Well, these two clubs will match up at the Ceramíca tomorrow, and it is a crucial one for Villarreal. The 3-0 win over Sevilla was nice, the Atleti match was not critical to our survival (though we didn’t play well) but this one? We need a win here.

Alavés are still riding their early season wave: after defeating us 2-1 on October 28, they were in second place with 20 points from 10 matches. Since then they’ve picked up 17 from 15, not bad, but scarcely earthshaking—and recent away matches, a draw at Betis aside, haven’t brought much. Abelardo’s 4-3-3 has some strong defenders in the middle (CB’s Maripán and Laguardia), Jony on the left front of attack is good and Jonathan Calleri is decent. But is that enough to stay in the top six? Not sure.

Ximo Navarro is out for this match, which is a loss for them; he’s been one of their better players this season.

Villarreal have fitness problems—Bonera, Trigueros, Javi Fuego, and Santy Caseres (who is suspended anyway). However, our 3-5-2 remains, with Funes Mori, Ruiz, and Alvaro as the back three. I think Morlanes might work with Iborra in the middle of midfield, and Bacca and Ekambi probably start ahead of Gerard.

Keys for me will be how Pedraza does against (probably) Martin down our left, and whether Santi Cazorla can rebound from a subpar match against Atleti. If they can create chances for whoever is up front, I figure some will go in (I know, maybe I’m being optimistic).

All-time record: Not very good, as it turns out. Our Primera matches fall into two time periods—the first from the 1998-2006 period, which isn’t terribly relevant; the second from 2016 onward. In those, we have played twice at home, and lost twice. Time to change THAT!!

Trivia: How about the Villarreal lineup the last time we defeated Alavés at home (March 4, 2006): Sebastian Viera in goal; Javi Venta, Arruabarrena, Gonzalo, Javi Venta; Josico, Riquelme, Marcos Senna, Tacchinardi; Diego Forlán and José Mari. Wow!

Prediction: Villarreal 2-0 Alavés. It won’t be easy, but I think we’ll win it. Endavant Villarreal!!!!