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Preview: Villarreal away

La Liga Santander Round 5 Preview

Villarreal (10th) vs Real Valladolid (12th)

Estadio De La Cerámica, Villarreal, Spain

Saturday 21st September 2019. Kick off 12:00 (UK)

After last week’s draw against Osasuna at home, Real Valladolid are back on the road this weekend to face Villarreal. Sergio González’s side may well count themselves lucky that they earned a point – despite going ahead through Pablo Hervías’ sublime freekick – as their opponents had the upper hand for most of the match and enjoyed the bulk of the scoring opportunities.

Meanwhile, Javier Calleja’s Villarreal have quietly laid the foundations for a more successful season than last year. A strong finish saw them ultimately claim 14th place but this did not show the full extent of a weak campaign where they climbed only as high as ninth but languished second from bottom between Rounds 19 to 23. In fact, Villarreal spent a total of 12 weeks in the relegation zone before finally pulling clear in the spring.

There have been 23 matches between these sides and Real Valladolid hold the advantage with 11 wins to Villarreal’s eight, with four draws. However, at the Estadio de la Cerámica – or El Madrigal as it was known as until 2017 – the balance tips in favour of the hosts. They have won seven out of eleven matches there, with Pucela earning three victories and one draw occurring. However, Sergio’s side will take heart knowing that they have not lost to Villarreal in the last three meetings. In last season’s encounters, Real Valladolid prevailed. They met in Villarreal in Round 7 in September 2018 where a Leo Suárez (on loan from Villarreal at the time) penalty was enough to edge them past, but Jordi Masip saved a penalty from Gerard Moreno in the 83rd minute to preserve the lead. In the return fixture at the José Zorrilla, in Round 23, the teams played out a relatively unspectacular 0-0 draw.

The Yellow Submarine were active in the summer transfer market, acquiring midfielders Javier Ontiveros from Málaga (€7m), André Anguissa from Fulham on loan and Moi Gómez from Sporting (€1.8m). In addition, they bolstered their defence with the arrival of the experienced Raúl Albiol from Napoli (€5m) along with fellow defenders Rubén Peña (Eibar, €8m) and Alberto Moreno on loan from Liverpool. Big names who departed the club included Pablo Fornals, Roberto Soriano, Nicola Sansone, Denis Cheryshev and Ruben Semedo.

Going into this match, they share an identical win/loss/draw record and are level on points with Real Valladolid and only two places higher – tenth position – than their foes. A questionable defence has conceded eight goals in the first four league matches, but this has been tempered by finding the net ten times. Half of these have been scored by forward Gerard Moreno who sits atop the La Liga scoring chart and is on a four-match scoring streak. They began the season with an epic 4-4 home draw against league newcomers Granada but followed that up with a 2-1 loss on the road at Levante. They ran Real Madrid close at the Estadio de la Cerámica at the start of this month, drawing 2-2 in a match where they were undone by a Gareth Bale double prior to the international break. The week off did not seem to affect Villarreal as they powered past Leganés 3-0 last week aided by a double from Gerard Moreno.

In addition to the potent goal threat of Gerard Moreno, there are several key players to note for Villarreal. Santi Cazorla, the prodigal son who returned from Arsenal at the start of last season, is a World Cup and European Champion with the national team and – despite suffering a long injury lay-off during his time in England – still has the ability to control a game with his intricate technical ability and eye for a defence splitting pass. A player of undoubted talent is the young Nigerian attacking midfielder, Samuel Chukuweze. He has lit up the league from the time he broke into the first team last season, with his pace and trickery matched only by his strength. Moi Gómez, a summer arrival from Sporting who is a Villarreal youth product, has shown no problems adapting to football in the top flight with some competent performances in left midfield, having started three out the four matches so far this term and contributed two goals and two assists in that span.

Calleja has most of the squad at his disposal but will be missing defender Alberto Moreno through a calf injury and Bruno Soriano is side-lined due to a knee injury.

For Real Valladolid, they look to bounce back after last week’s point against Osasuna. Turkish striker Enes Ünal will miss the match as he is currently on loan at the club from today’s opponents and therefore cannot play against his parent club. It will likely mean a return to the starting eleven for Sandro, who replaced Ünal in the latter stages of the match against Osasuna to mark his return for the first time since leaving the opening match of the season at Real Betis in the first half. Controversially, Sergio opted not to call up academy product Miguel who some thought may feature in the squad considering Ünal’s absence. Rubén Alcaraz, who was also injured in the Real Betis match, came on as a substitute for Míchel last week and may well find himself back in the starting line-up, either ahead of Míchel or possibly at the expense of Fede San Emeterio. Nacho is not in the squad at left-back but is replaced by Fede Barba.

Villarreal have three ex-Real Valladolid players in their squad. Goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo became a cult figure during his time at the José Zorrilla between 2005 and 2009 as he worked his way up from the youth side, to the B-team, to the senior squad whilst earning call-ups for the Spanish Under-21 set up. He made a lucrative move to Atlético Madrid as a result of his performances, but his career has been hampered by several injuries although he remains a top-quality keeper. Javier Ontiveros played in white and violet during the 2017/18 season in the Segunda while on loan from Málaga and Leo Suárez featured briefly last season during his loan from Villarreal with his most notable match coming when he scored that winner against his employers back in September.

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