Villarreal make the short bus drive south to the lovely city of Valencia to take on Los Che at the Mestalla. A victory would put us in the top half of the table and give us momentum ahead of our Champions League match on Tuesday.
Valencia are now managed by José Bordalas. Their record so far is an unimpressive 3-4-4; they got off to a good start with wins over Getafe, Alaves, and Osasuna in their first four matches, but have now gone seven matches without a win, dating back to September 12.
Los Che fans have seen numerous players depart over the summer, but there are still some impressive young talents left, notably José Gayà, Carlos Soler and Gonçalo Guedes. They picked up a young goalkeeper, Giorgi Mamardashvili, from Lokomotiv Tiblisi on loan, grabbed Paraguayan defender Omar Alderete from Hertha Berlin on loan, and actually spent a bit of money (€2.5m) on Dimitri Foulquier from Granada.
Bordalas, as you would expect, lines them up in a 4-4-2. A problem for them in this match is their injury list—Jason, Maxi Gomez, Carlos Soler, Toni Lato, Thierry Correia and Denis Cheryshev are all out. Presumably Gabriel Paulista can return after his concussion scare last match.
Villarreal will be without Juan Foyth and Gerard Moreno, but also need to approach this match with an eye toward Tuesday and Young Boys’ visit in the CL. For that reason I expect Serge Aurier, who can’t play on Tuesday, to go at right back for us. I frankly think we might see something other than the 4-3-3 Emery has been playing lately, mostly because like the Swiss side we’ll face next, Valencia attack down the flanks pretty well; the sort of counterattacking 4-1-4-1 like we played against Betis might appeal. Danjuma, Coquelin and Parejo are all likely to be on the pitch somewhere, perhaps Capoue as well, but I’d save Dia for the last half-hour. Maybe Yeremy up front and Samu on the right wing—who knows.
Regardless of who plays or in what formation, the real issues for Villarreal are avoiding silly individual mistakes, and continuing to press their advantage. Too often we take a lead through aggressive tactics, but then sit back and try to defend a lead.
All-time record: In the Primera, Villarreal are 18-8-16 against Valencia, but after a spell of dominance, have lost 4 of the last 6. At the Mestalla, we’re 6-3-12. It’s unusual that two clubs who are so close in terms of goals (57-56 in favor of Villarreal) have drawn less than 20% of the time!
Recent matches: Our last win here was in December 2017 (a Bacca goal giving us a 1-0 win). We had a horror show our last visit, going ahead through a Gerard penalty in the first half before collapsing to a 2-1 loss late on (Soler penalty, Guedes scoring very late on).
Prediction: I think both sides will score, I think the score will be 2-1. I hope Villarreal is the 2 in that score!
Note—please use this as the gamethread and update with lineups!