Villarreal host Granada at the Ceramica to kick off the 2021-22 season. The Yellow Submarine will be delighted to see live fans in the stadium in place of the cardboard cutouts, though capacity is limited to I believe 9000 fans. We probably won’t be able to see it here unless the cameras happen to catch it during the pregame warmups, but the team is going to be showing a video montage of Villarreal fans who have passed away since the pandemic began, which is a lovely tribute.
The team is going to parade the Europa league trophy and show it to the fans, and the fans themselves are going to be clapping and cheering in the third minute for Raul Albiol specifically, singing the club hymn before the match and waving scarves, etc. It won’t quite be the same atmosphere with the reduced capacity and food and drink restrictions, but it’s a start.
In spite of all the optimism shown by our group of august pundits, who have all predicted a Villarreal win, it won’t be easy with Samu and Dani Parejo still injured and Pau Torres enjoying a welcome vacation after playing nonstop for the past year.
Villarreal aren’t exactly known for their quick start in the first round of matches. You have to go back to Marcelino’s two seasons leading us in the Primera: we won 3-2 away to Almeria in August 2013, and defeated Levante (also away) 2-0 the following season. This marks the fourth straight year we’ve opened at home—before that streak, it had been a rarity for us to open at home, and we’ve drawn two of those three matches and lost the other one (Real Sociedad, 1-2 in 2018).
When did we last win a first round match at home? Well, here is a piece of trivia for you. The first jornada of the 2011-12 season was postponed—I forget why now, but some sort of strike I think. It was finally played in January 2012, and we hosted (and defeated) Sporting Gijon, 3-0. But of course it wasn’t our first match of the season. That was at the Camp Nou, a 5-0 defeat to the blaugrana.
We did defeat CD Logroñes 1-0 in our opening match in 1995. If there’s a later Villarreal home win than that to open the season, I’ve missed it! At any rate, we’re certainly OVERDUE.
Enough history. On to the lineups!!
Villarreal: Rulli; Foyth, Albiol, Mandi, Pedraza; Yeremy, Capoue, Trigueros, Alberto Moreno; Gerard and Dia.
Subs: Asenjo; Mario, Paco, Iborra, Estupiñan, Raba, Coquelin, Ruben Peña, Moi, Cuenca
A bit surprising, the goalkeeper choice, yes? Otherwise no real surprises.
Granada: (4-3-3; names listed in order of shirt number): Aarón; Foulquier, Gonalons, Milla, German, Suarez, Puertas, Machis, Monchu, Neva, Domingos Duarte.
Subs: Angel (GK), Kane Sarr (GK), Sorro, Victor Diaz, Quini, Abram, Montoro, Bacca, Molina, Isma Ruiz, Torrente.
ENDAVANT!!! A GUANYAR!!