Villarreal have been an offensive buzz saw, to use the term of one of our sister sites, over the last month or so. This has been particularly true of the Copa Del Rey, where our previous lower division opponents have been absolutely annihilated 15-1 in two matches. Today, though, is one of those matches where a manager has to decide what is important to him over the course of the season. Four players have departed for AFCON and won’t be back for several weeks, meanwhile a huge matchup with Atletico Madrid looms on the weekend. What sort of lineup strength do you play in a mid week Copa match against a second tier side in that situation? Striking the balance between putting out enough talent to win vs holding enough back to rest players is extremely complicated, and many La Liga sides have either messed it up or nearly messed it up already.
Sporting Gijon have a lot of history in Spanish football but they currently sit 12th in the Segunda division and have not scored more than two goals in any match all year. Historically, their record against us is lousy, having only beaten the yellow sub 3 times in 18 matches, with Villarreal winning 13. We have not seen them since April 2017 in La Liga where a Roberto Soldado goal and a Bakambu brace saw us run out 3-1 winners.
Sporting Gijon have one win in their last five league matches. Their leading goalscorer on the season is Uroš Đurđević and their leading creator is Fan Villalba. If you have an excellent, probably eidetic memory, you’ll remember Villalba getting his first and only appearance in La Liga in a 4 minute cameo against Villarreal for Valencia back on the last day of 2015. That match was decided in our favor with a goal from Bruno.
As I alluded to above, I have no idea what Emery’s going to do. Asenjo, Raba, Alberto, Yeremy, and Gaspar are all guys who were in the lists for the Levante match that I could see starting this one, and I’d hope that Iborra starts again giving Capoue a nice long time to have himself right for Atleti. I would very much like to have a deep Copa run, but in the grand scheme of things it is far, far, far less important than our other two competitions so I won’t be too worried about the result (especially if we perform fairly well) in this one.