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Villarreal vs Leganes: La Liga Preview

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Our opponents are in a bit of a pickle.

Mirandes v Villarreal - Copa del Rey: Quarter Final Photo by Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

I’m deeply sympathetic to Legane’s plight. As part of the non-Barca/Real/Atleti contingent in the league, I always hate it when smaller clubs get taken advantage of to benefit those privileged elite. (I know the common statement is ‘the other 18’ but let’s be serious, the Wanda Metropolitano seats over 68,000 people and cost € 240 million to build, they have way more in common with the top two than us.) The Martin Braithwaite to Barcelona transfer from Leganes was absolute robbery that murdered in the dark of night any glimmer of survival hope Lega had after just four seasons in the top flight in club history. For that reason, among others, it gave me great joy to see a Martin Braithwaite defensive error be instrumental in costing Barcelona El Clasico last week. All that sympathy, however, is put on hold for a few days as I hope we utterly annihilate this team on Sunday.

Our opponents

Since January 1, Leganes has lost its two best players, Martin Braithwaite and Youssef En-Nesyri. They’re both forwards, En-Nesyri in particular is absolutely excellent, and the departure of this duo means Leganes is rather toothless up front. In five of their last six matches they have had less than 1 xG including both matches since the dishonorable pillaging from the Catalan giants. We should absolutely not give up a goal in this match, though my current confidence level precludes me from thinking we won’t.

Known as Los Pepineros, or the ‘Cucumber Growers’, Leganes’ primary rival is Getafe, which all things considered has to make their imminent relegation all the more frustrating. In nine all time matches with Leganes, we are 6-2-1 including us popping them 3-0 last September.

Villarreal

We’ve still technically attempted more shots than anyone in the league besides Real Madrid, though we’re 12th in terms of shot on target %. Our positions in the shots attempted and xG rankings in La Liga have become more tenuous as of late, as we have relied more and more on hopeful long shots than creating clear cut chances. In other depressing Villarreal statistical news, we’ve fallen to 7th in the league nutmeg standings (14 successful megs this season).

Ontiveros was okay last week, but I don’t especially expect that experiment to be repeated. Leganes is going to sit back against us, so having Zambo in the starting lineup would be incredibly helpful, but I wouldn’t wager on it. Chukwueze has not been performing well lately, but if he gets on against this particular type of opponent I expect some fireworks. This is just the sort of match he could do wonders in out wide.

Calleja won’t be on the bench for this match. He’s been suspended two games for having basically the only possible human reaction to Gil Manzano’s attempt to referee a game last week.

Prediction

As I said on our latest podcast with Allen, I think we win this week and draw or lose to Celta next. I’m calling this 3-1 in favor of Yellow Sub.

Endavant!