It feels absolutely surreal beginning to type an actual match preview. Are we really doing this? Closed doors football, apparently with some digitized fans in the stands that looks like they are from FIFA 98 (thanks Bein), all in a mad dash to complete the season, with everything on the line?
We’ve said already that these first two games against Celta and Mallorca just have to be six points. There’s really no other option here. We are dangerously thin at CB, we have a lot of tough games left, if we want to qualify for Europe it’s gotta be six points out of six right here, right now. But if you want me to predict how these teams are going to play, after three months break and with Villarreal still on a three match losing streak, honestly, I have no idea. We are in a strange new world.
Worth pointing out a couple things we did in March that are still relevant. Here’s a Q & A with Ian from Celta USA, and he also did a podcast with us here.
Iago Aspas is the big headliner on this lineup and he’s surrounded by a mess of players that are really more talented than their performances or results so far this season. Santi Mina, Pione Sisto, and Rafinha are all players with the quality to give a back line trouble as well, and I am very concerned as to whether Calleja will set us up in a way to protect us from the assault we are probably in for. Celta are 12th in La Liga in xG differential, and 13th in expected points, which still isn’t terrifying but it suggests that their 17th place in the table is a little unfair to their quality. They are looking to guarantee survival and will see us as a golden opportunity to make hay while the sun in shining. (Or, I guess, since they are Galician, some seaworthy substitute for that colloquialism).
In 27 matches all time with Celta, we actually have a losing record, having won 10, drawn 5, lost 12. including a 3-1 loss last November.
The match will be played in an empty Estadio de Balaidos a historic stadium which first hosted a Spanish international match in 1933 and also was home to three group games from the 1982 World Cup (all draws involving Italy.)
I guess we more or less know the lineup Calleja is gonna go with? I mean, he’s had three months to think about his tactics but his keeper and CBs pick themselves, I would guess Mario and Alberto are the likely fullbacks. I expect Santi, Iborra, and Trigueros in some configuration in the midfield and Paco and Gerard in two forward spots. The only real question mark is if we get Moi or Javi on the left though it’s worth noting that back in February- the last time we won a match- it was Gomez.
Maybe Calleja has hit the books for a few months and is a revolutionized tactician but I doubt it. I expect this to be a frustrating match and I’m not very optimistic about it.
¡Es todo un honor para nosotros poder presentaros a los 2️⃣4️⃣ convocados que viajarán a Vigo para medirse mañana al @RCCelta! ¡Estamos de regreso !— Villarreal CF (@VillarrealCF) June 12, 2020
We don’t have much choice but to include Chakla in the squad list though we all hope he never sees the field. It’s good to see Fer included but let’s be honest we have a lot of guys who can play the 9 that are probably ahead of him in the pecking order.
I’ve got a 2-2 draw here. I think there’s very little chance we keep a clean sheet but I also think Celta’s back line is pretty bad. It’ll be ugly, we’ll probably blow a lead, and I wouldn’t be surprised if after so long not playing big mistakes lead to one or two of the goals.