Villarreal is in much need of a palate cleanser after the disaster on Sunday against Barcelona. In the midweek, they have the perfect opportunity to get just that against Alaves, who have just one point from their first three matches this season. With Atleti and Valencia as our next two matches after this one, getting a win is going to be very, very important.
Things are not going well for Alaves in the points column, but I really don’t think they are a bad team. They drew Getafe 0-0, and lost by one goal each to Granada and Real Betis. Frankly, they’ve been in every single contest and simply have not faced a weak opponent yet, so we cannot take them lightly at all. Their xG vs xGA on the season is basically level, and historically when that has been the case a team almost never gets relegated, so do not look at their place in the table and assume we will cruise.
Alaves does not seem to have decided on a formation yet. In their match with Betis they played what was listed as a 3-1-4-2, Granada a 3-5-2, and then against Getafe (and their press) they played a 4-4-2. If I were them I would return to the three in the back against us to clog the middle and defend against crosses.
Will we see the 4-4-2 or will Emery scrap it for a three man midfield? That is ultimately the biggest question in this match. I personally rate Paco, I’ve written on that before, but I would sacrifice him for an extra body in midfield right now in a heartbeat. Mario Gaspar was a horrible liability against Barca, but Pena is hurt so we have no option but to stick with the captain. I think this match will be more his level. Here’s my predicted XI assuming the injury to Coquelin and a shift to a three man midfield.
I think the side will be very motivated to show that the Barcelona match was just a bad night. That’ll include the manager. I see us winning 3-1.