Things have gone from bad to worse for Villarreal, who are getting ready to host Sevilla after the Yellow Submarine has suffered a disappointing exit in the UEFA Champions League play-off to Monaco during the week.
Villarreal rushing downhill
Having finished the 2015-16 La Liga season in fourth place on the standings, Villarreal headed into the summer preseason keen to build up on the previous campaign and grab the Champions League berth in the play-off round. Few people could have anticipated that Villarreal will open the new campaign without their long-serving manager Marcellino, who left the club after a disagreement with senior players and club officials. A sudden change on the bench has resulted in a disrupted team balance and new head coach Fran Escriba is now faced with a daunting task of picking up the pieces. He didn’t have the best of starts to his tenure at Estadio El Madrigal with his side suffering a disappointing Champions League play-off exit. Villarreal lost to French side Monaco 3-1 on aggregate, while the poor start of the new campaign was compounded by a tiring 1-1 draw at Granada in last week’s opener. Villarreal winger Samu Castillejo successfully converted a free kick one minute after the hour mark to open the scoring against Granada, but the hosts levelled minutes later through Argentine forward Ezequiel Ponce.
Spanish forward Roberto Soldado remains absent due to a cruciate ligament rupture that will keep him on the sildelines until Feburary. Fran Escriba is faced with a proper selection headache with Daniele Bonera, Jonathan dos Santos and Cedric Bakambu all unavailable through injuries as well. Denis Cheryshev is nearing his return folloing an operation, but Sevilla match is coming a bit too soon for the winger.
Sampaoli slowly getting a grip
Reigning Europa League champions have gone through major changes during the summer with head coach Unai Emery leading the way in the transfer window together with no less than 12 players, who left the club in recent months. Club officials have presented Jorge Sampaoli with a serious challenge as the Chilean had to deal without the likes of Grzegorz Krychowiak, Kevin Gameiro, Coke and Ever Banega among other key players from last season. Rojiblancos worked hard to fill in all the blanks and Sevilla managed to add ten new names to their squad list in what has been a busy transfer window for the Spanish side. Jorge Sampaoli did not have the best of starts to his Sevilla career as he lost the UEFA Super Cup and the Spanish Super Cup clashes to Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively. Despite the early blows, Sampaoli’s men managed to kick off the new La Liga campaign with a memorable 6-4 win over Espanyol last weekend. Rojiblancos worked hard to overturn Espanyol’s lead on two occasions during the game, but ultimately ended up winning a match that will have been a great morale boost. Heading into the game at El Madrigal, Sevilla will be looking to end their terrible away run which saw them end the season without a single win on the road.
Michael Krohn-Dehli and Benoit Tremoulinas remain the long term absentees for Sevilla. Goalkeeper David Soria is still recovering from a fractures finger, while Adil Rami is having muscular problems. Visit to Villarreal also comes early for Sergio Escudero and Vitolo, who are on their way to recovery.
Villarreal are having a terrible start to the season after a turbulent summer and Sevilla game will be a great challenge for Fran Escriba, who is looking to stabilize his team. Jorge Sampaoli, on the other hand, is slowly starting to get a grip of things with his new job and we expect that the Chilean will finally be able to end the on the road hoodoo from last season.
Top pick: Sevilla 2.88 (15/8) @Betfair
Alternative pick 1: Both teams to score – yes 1.67 (4/6) @Bet365
Alternative pick 2: Over 2.5 goals 1.91 (10/11) @WilliamHill