After losing to Sevilla to close out 2020, a new year begins with an incredibly tricky run of fixtures. First comes Levante, a solid team that can compete with most anyone in the league. Then comes a Celta team playing better than I’ve seen in years and 7th place Granada to close out the first trip through the teams of the league. Following that, we get six league teams in a row that we drew the first team around, with the Europa League knockout against Salzburg somewhere in the middle. 2021 is not going to be easy.
In their last time out, Levante won 4-3 over Betis, a match where they led 4-1 before going down to 10 men. They will be missing Jose Campana and Enis Bardhi to injury, and defender Rober Pier due to suspension.
Keep an eye on Jose Luis Morales going forward from the start and Sergio Leon coming off the bench. This is a team that likes to attempt long range shots and work things down the left hand side, so Moi and Estupinan should have plenty of space to attack without much to worry about. This team is weak in the air, so don’t be surprised if we nick a goal off a set piece or something like that.
The big question for Villarreal fans may be: what part will new man Etienne Capoue play in this one? The answer will disappoint you, Spain’s registration window doesn’t officially open until the fourth, so while he can train with us for now, he can’t actually compete for us until paperwork is filed at that time. We should have him available for the Granada match.
That, of course, probably leaves us with one more game of Juan Foyth at CDM, so here’s what I think the lineup will look like:
Emery tends to react strongly after bad results, and I think he’ll do so here as well. We only generated six shots against Sevilla, and I think Emery will react to that by moving Gerard central and giving us a fresh look on the right. Could be wrong about that, but it feels to me like the sort of thing Emery would do.
Wins have been way too rare in La Liga of late, so we need this one to keep contact with our competition for top four. I think Emery finds a way to get it done, 2-1 Villarreal.