After the international break, Villarreal return to action with a key, key match with Celta Vigo in Galicia. With two league wins in a row for the first time all season, Villarreal have moved four points ahead of the Celeste in the battle to stay out of the relegation zone. A Celta win would tighten things up again (and increase the pressure on Valladolid and Levante should they lose this weekend) while a Villarreal win would open up some breathing space over the bottom three for the Submarine. And a draw? Well, Villarreal would certainly be happier with that than the home side.
Team news: Villarreal are without Funes Mori, who is suspended; Miguelón Llambrich, Manu Trigueros and Bruno Soriano are all long-term absences. Gerard Moreno andthough Jaume Costa are both out. Javi Fuego probably are missing as well. Daniele Bonera is able to play, and may well do so, though can he last 90 minutes? Hopefully.
Exactly how we’ll lineup is unclear—possibly a back four with Mario at his usual right back slot, possibly a 3-5-2 with Mario, Alvaro and Victor Ruiz as the back three, or Bonera between Alvaro and Ruiz with Mario on the right of the midfield five. We have (for the first time) included Andrei Ratiu in our callup, though I would expect he is there as injury cover.
Toko Ekambi and Carlos Bacca are likely to be the front two I expect.
Celta Vigo’s big injury problem is Iago Aspas; he is likely to be in the squad, unlikely to start, but could come on if Celta need goals late, I expect. David Juncà is definitely out, and Nestor Araujo is doubtful.
Form: Celta have won only once in the league this calendar year, a 1-0 win over Sevilla at home. Fran Escribá took over as coach before the Betis home match, but has lost his first two encounters. The big problem for Celta—related to the Aspas injury—has been scoring. They have been shut out their last four matches and haven’t scored more than once in a match since a 4-2 loss to Rayo in early January.
Villarreal have been looking better. Since Javi Calleja returned and went to a three-man back line, the Submarine are 3-2-2 and are finally scoring some goals—11 in those 7 matches doesn’t seem like much, but compared to 21 in our first 21 matches, it’s a definite improvement.
All-time record: Villarreal are 10-5-10 against Celta, 3-3-6 on the road, but there is an oddity here: the 6 losses were the first six times we played the sky blues in Balaidos, since then we have drawn three and won three.
Earlier this season Celta won 3-2 in the Ceramíca, going ahead 3-0 but Carlos Bacca pulling back two goals late on and nearly earning us a point. It was one of the rare matches where Asenjo didn’t have a good game, as I recall, and our first 50 minutes or so were dreadful.
Prediction: If Villarreal had a full set of players, I’d predict an away win, but we don’t. I’m seeing this as a 1-1 or 2-2 draw, which frankly would be okay by me—denying Celta two points would be helpful, though winning (especially by two goals) would give us the tiebreak which is worth a point on its own!