[UPDATE: Click here before kickoff for the LiveBlog!]
Here’s a photo of El Madrigal this morning, complete with little black cards for a stadium-wide #LigaJusta display in a show of solidarity between the two clubs who have been the most brave, daring, and vocal in the ongoing struggle for fair TV rights in La Liga. There will also be some banners as well as a general feeling of good will and convivial happiness between two clubs who in recent times have had good relationships as well as talented squads and entertaining contests.
But of course on the field itself, this won’t be much of a love-in. After Villarreal’s disastrous 0-5 start to the season against Barcelona, the Yellow Submarine needs points, and fast. Sure, they’ve had the toughest start to the season of any Liga team, and there will be opportunities to gain points back when they play the league’s cupcakes, but it’s never fun to prepare for a CL game while you’re sitting in the relegation zone, and Villarreal will want to avoid that feeling. Additionally, these are two teams that are expected to be competing for some form of European places at the end of the year, so the 6 points these head-to-head games represent will likely be crucial.
Sevilla lost at this stadium last year, and since I’d probably remind everyone if the tables were turned, I’ll point out that when we won the reverse leg at the RSP, the very nervous last minutes (we’d seen our lead shrink to a 3-2 advantage as everyone in a yellow jersey ran over Sevilla’s midfield in the second half) became very shameful last minutes when Sevilla added its name to the list of teams that cheat by throwing too many balls on the field to stall a game. Del Nido was extremely apologetic after the game, and Roig was gracious, but I’m just saying: we’re friendly clubs, sure, but we’re also direct rivals and competitors.
Sevilla has about as good as a roster as it’s going to be able to put together until January with Kanoute healthy and Rakitic back in the squad for the first time after a long absence. It should be interesting to see if Marcelino pairs Negredo and Kanoute up top, or if he uses the return of Rakitic to strengthen the midfield with just Negredo on the front line. I don’t expect we’ll manage 5 goals today, and obviously Barca is what Barca is, but when a team gives up a manita on opening day and then the team breaks up for international duty, and YOUR team has the in-form number 9 for the best national team in the world, you’ve got to be thinking about exploiting a theoretically weak defense, right? We’ll see what Marcelino has in mind, but who would you like to see out there, and how do you think this game will go?