Cards on the table, I’ll miss this whole match. I hate it, it’s one of the last matches I would want to miss, but when they drop at this particular local time for me on a Sunday there’s just nothing I can do.
Nevertheless, it is a game Villarreal is in good position to win, despite the injuries our first team has suffered. Mario Gaspar has been great going forward in recent matches, but he’ll want to keep a close eye on Jose Gaya coming the other direction. We don’t necessarily have to get the better of that battle, but keeping Gaya from doing anything big is important.
Perhaps Unai Emery’s most fascinating tactical decision will be who he puts above Mario in the right attacking midfield slot. As I mentioned in our match preview, I think Kubo can stylistically be the most similar to how Gerard plays that role, but he is so very prone to giving the ball away that Chukwueze’s wider, less pass centric approach may have to do. Valencia are a mess at CB right now, so don’t be surprised if we get a chance or two out of Gaya having bombed forward and our right winger, whoever he turns out to be, having beat an offside trap.
Valencia has a few interesting attacking options, so we’ll need to be careful, but they’ve only kept one clean sheet all year so we’ll have our chances at goal in this one. I don’t gamble but I would pick Paco Alcacer to get on the scoresheet in this one, and without Gerard we’ll need him to do so.
Oh, and we’ll be top of the table at the final whistle if we get a win.