Villarreal v Sevilla preview
Villarreal hope to stay in European hunt
By Kristian Walsh - @Kristian_Walsh
Last Updated: 09/09/11 5:25pm
El Madrigal will host two sides harbouring similar ambitions for UEFA Champions League qualification, but with two very different starts to this season's campaign.
Villarreal were annihilated by breathtaking Barcelona, punch-drunk at half time, out for the count 45 minutes later. Rossi and Nilmar worked tirelessly up front, while Bruno and Borja toiled in the midfield, but the Yellow Submarine sank without trace at the Camp Nou.
The club could be forgiven for writing off the Barcelona result, but not manager Juan Garrido. Garrido recruited two new faces on deadline day - Ikechukwu Uche from Real Zaragoza and Jonathan De Guzman from Mallorca. While Uche has been sent to Granada on loan, De Guzman, who scored for Mallorca on the opening day, is expected to slot straight into the midfield.
Villarreal will be hoping their home form from last season carries into this one. They lost just three games last season, thanks, in part, to the pairing of Rossi and Nilmar. It was Nilmar who scored the winner for Villarreal in this corresponding fixture last season, one of his 10 in the league last year.
But that Sevilla is a different one to this. Eight of their 18 man squad who lost to Villarreal last season are no longer at the club.
After numerous managerial changes over the past 18 months, the road to stability for Sevilla started well with a 2-1 win over nuevo riche Malaga.
Marcelino Garcia Toral's men were superb, showing excellent attacking intent and supplying Alvaro Negredo handsomely. Negredo scored twice in the opening 30 minutes with Navas and Perotti providing the final pass.
Whether Toral will opt for a similarly attacking line-up away from home remains to be seen. Against Malaga, the side relied on Chilean hard man Gary Medel to stop the opposition in midfield, but Medel is a fitness doubt after suffering a hamstring injury. The 24-year-old has resumed full training but it remains to be seen whether he'll be risked.
Villarreal were the best home starters in the league last season, leading at half time in 12 of their 19 matches, meaning Sevilla could stifle them during the opening exchanges, bringing a more defensive-minded body in midfield alongside Medel if he's passed fit.
But Sevilla are no strangers to a fast, frantic start either, winning six games away at half time last season - the same amount of games they won away after 90 minutes. They'll also know a victory here will give a huge boost to their top four aspirations, while a defeat for Villarreal could see their season over before it's even started.
Best Bet: Over 1.5 goals at half time - 7/4