Alavés host Villarreal in another installment of their always fascinating series. Last season Alavés won this matchup 2-1 with a late goal from Borja Bastón (departed), Jonathan Calleri (departed) scored the first goal for Manager Abelardo’s side (he’s gone too). Since the Basque side returned to the Primera in 2016 they’ve finished in mid-table positions—it felt last year as though they might be on the way up, but this season they seem a lot less threatening. They are now coached by Asier Garitano (formerly of Leganes, and most recently Real Sociedad).
Alavés don’t score much—a goal a game, basically. They are last in the league in shots per game (9), third in the league in aerial challenges won per game (23, behind Eibar and Athletic Bilbao), joint last in the league in possession (44.3%, same as Leganès). And, like Leganes and Getafe, they pick up lots of yellow cards. They were the first La Liga side out of this year’s Copa Del Rey, going down to ten men and then giving up two goals to powerhouse Real Jaén who are fifth in their Tercera division group.
Villarreal connections: Sadly, Alaves have just parted ways with yellow-card magnet and Submarine legend Wakaso Mubarak, and Tomás Pina is out until April with a broken shinbone. That only leaves Adrian Marín, who doesn’t play much for them.
Other players you may know: Aleix Vidal is on loan from Sevilla; Pere Pons played for Girona for a number of years. They seem to have cornered the market on English league disappointments, though: Lucas Perez, whom Arsenal squandered €20m on, joined in the summer for €2.3m from West Ham; Joselu Sanmartin has made his way through Newcastle and Stoke to Alavés, some €10m or so later; and Scottish midfielder Oliver Burke, whom West Brom spent €16m+ on, is on loan from the Baggies.
Prediction: Villarreal won this fixture at home in October, 4-1 (Ekambi, 2; Gerard and Ontiveros) but keep in mind a few things about this series. First, this will be the 24th meeting between the two teams, and there has only been ONE draw! That must be some sort of record.
Second—since returning to the Primera in 2016, Alavés have done very well against us, winning 5 and losing 2. (only 2 of those matches have been shutouts, 1 for each side).
So....that tells me the final score should be something like 2-1. Before the news that Pau was injured, and that Gerard was almost certainly unavailable, I was feeling optimistic....well, I’m not now. But I’ll trust in us—still— to somehow come out with a win here. Call me crazy.