Espanyol are on the road this afternoon, taking an estimated 3,000 fans down the coast to El Madrigal. Strong gales and heavy rain are forecast, meaning the two sides will need to be up for a good scrap if they are to claim the points.
Villarreal team news
The yellow submarine sprung a leak after claiming a narrow 0-1 win at RCDE Stadium back in October, losing to Mallorca, Eibar and Celta as they plummeted. Unfortunately from a blanc-i-blau perspective, they have recently managed to steady the ship, beating Sevilla, Getafe and Real Sociedad in their last three games to steer themselves back into the calmer waters of ninth position.
This upturn has coincided with an injury to usual talisman Santi Cazorla, with Manu Trigueros stepping in to great effect. Santi did come off the bench to get the winner last time out in San Sebastián, so Javi Calleja has a decision to make in centre midfield. Elsewhere, Samuel Chukwueze and Moi Gómez are favourites to provide width, especially if reports of a deal with Lyon for the transfer of Toko Ekambi are to be believed. Up front, top scorer Gerard Moreno is a doubt, having missed training yesterday, with Carlos Bacca ready to take his place.
Espanyol team news
All eyes will be on Raúl de Tomás, widely expected to make his La Liga debut in an Espanyol shirt. A repeat of last weekend’s trick when he scored on his Copa del Rey bow would be just what the doctor ordered. Calleri is probably favourite to start up front alongside the new man, with Wu Lei gaining himself the mixed blessing of a reputation as a super-sub. (Maybe super is a bit strong but you get the gist.)
Abelardo has left out Víctor Gómez, surely due to a fitness issue, although no confirmation has been forthcoming from the club (there rarely is). His place will be taken by either Matías Vargas or Melendo, with David López, Marc Roca and Sergi Darder all sure to start. The back four will be a relatively unconvincing Javi-Naldo-Bernardo-Dídac afair, unless Pedrosa is preferred to the latter. Diego.
Villarreal are what you could call inconsistently average, often pulling great results out of the bag, but never quite riding as high as they should do thanks to weak performances against supposedly inferior opposition. Espanyol, it must be admitted, certainly fall into that category at the moment, so let’s hope it turns out to be one of those days for the home side. We’ll take a 0-2 with a set piece goal and something of a war of a attrition, before a Wu Lei break-away in the last minute sees him chip the keeper and go mental in the away end. ¡Vamos Espanyol!