REUTERS/David W Cerny
19:15 BST, Sunday 26th August, Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan (Seville), Eleven Sports
In a game which could be regarded as a meeting of ‘the best of the rest’, two teams with high hopes of breaking into La Liga’s top four square off in Seville after enduring starkly differing fortunes on the opening weekend.
Sevilla strengthened the growing sense of optimism over their prospects by romping to a 4-1 victory at Rayo Vallecano, making themselves the league’s early pace-setters with a powerful attacking display.
In stark contrast, Villarreal slumped to a frustrating home defeat against unfancied Real Sociedad due to a litany of silly individual mistakes and now find themselves under pressure to avoid falling away from the leading pack at an early stage.
The hosts have gone through a busy start to the season due to the Europa League qualification rounds and will be playing their eighth competitive game in a month.
They have hit the ground running so far, though, and another convincing victory would send a message to the rest of the league.
Last Time Out
Sigma Olomouc 0-1 Sevilla (Europa League)
Sevilla embarked upon the latest stage of their Europa League journey with a trip to the Czech Republic on Thursday night.
In what turned out to be a tense affair, Los Hispalenses were relieved to come away as the victors when Pablo Sarabia scored late in the game to give his side a valuable away goal going into the second leg.
REUTERS/David W CernyPablo Machin will be hoping that his side's European escapades don't negatively impact their La Liga campaign. With a heavily-rotated side, he'll hoping that that any tiredness will have been ameliorated for the visit of Villarreal.
Villarreal 1-2 Real Sociedad (La Liga)
An occasion that promised so much – especially due to the return of hugely popular midfielder Santi Cazorla – eventually delivered nothing but frustration for Villarreal, who sank to a home loss against Real Sociedad due to completely avoidable individual errors.
It was looking good for the Yellow Submarine when summer signing Gerard Moreno – making his second debut for the team – lived up to his billing by rifling home a well-taken opener with his trusty left foot after just 16 minutes.
Action Images via Reuters/John CliftonBut shortly before half-time central defender Ramiro Funes Mori woefully under hit a back pass and visiting striker Willian Jose took full advantage by racing clear to fire home.
Then, midway through the second half, Villarreal’s other centre back Alvaro Gonzalez committed a similar blunder by failing to clear and Juanmi produced a superb finish to steal the points for La Real.
Sevilla boss Pablo Machin further strengthened an already impressive squad this week by signing Maxime Gonalons on loan from Roma. The French midfielder could make his league debut on Sunday evening.
The depth of Machin’s squad is intended to allow the new coach to compete on two fronts – the Europa League and La Liga – but he is likely to stick with the bulk of the team which romped to a 4-1 victory over Rayo Vallecano last weekend.
Visiting coach Javi Calleja could choose to replace last week’s errant centre backs Funes Mori and Gonzalez with either Victor Ruiz or Miguel Layun, while midfielder Manu Trigueros will probably start after being kept on the bench for the season opener.
Calleja can also call upon another of last weekend’s substitutes, former Sevilla forward Carlos Bacca, to replace summer signing Karl Toko Ekambi.
Elsewhere, Daniele Bonera, Javi Fuego and Bruno Soriano will probably remain sidelined by injury.
Key Battle: Roque Mesa vs Pablo Fornals
Two of La Liga’s most understated technicians will vie for supremacy in the centre of the pitch with Sevilla’s pass master Roque Mesa taking on Villarreal’s rising star Pablo Fornals.
Mesa rose to prominence a couple of years ago with Las Palmas, where his ability to retain possession drew comparisons with the legendary Xavi and earned a move to Swansea.
Perhaps predictably for such a subtle player, things didn’t work out in the helter-skelter of the Premier League but Mesa looks perfectly at home again with Sevilla, completing 95.7% of his passes in last week’s win at Rayo.
REUTERS/Sergio PerezFornals, 22, is a more eye-catching player through his ability to penetrate the penalty area, most famously displayed when he scored a beautifully taken winner at Real Madrid last season.
But he can be inconsistent and this season he needs to step up and assume more of a leadership role, becoming a proven talent rather than rich potential.
Fornals was substituted during the opening day loss against Real Sociedad and needs to kick-start his season in Sevilla.
Silva Sevilla’s new star?
Andre Silva could not have asked for a better league debut for Sevilla than last weekend’s trip to Rayo. The Portuguese striker – who is spending the season on loan from AC Milan – netted a well-taken hat-trick to mark his arrival in Spain with a bang.
Silva joins a well-stocked forward line with Machin also able to call upon predatory Frenchman Wissam Ben Yedder, speedy Colombian Luis Muriel and Spanish international Nolito.
All four of them will be needed as Sevilla confront their packed schedule over the next few months, but at the moment Silva is looking like rapidly becoming the first choice – and another goal or two on his home debut would certainly help.
Midfield reinforcements to ignite Villarreal?
Villarreal were hampered by injuries in the middle of the park for last weekend’s season opener, with veteran skipper Bruno Soriano and wily old Javi Fuego both ruled out while fellow central midfielders Manu Trigueros and Dani Raba were only able to appear from the bench after overcoming knocks.
With another week of training under their belts, both should be fit to start on this occasion and they could well form an outstanding partnership over the coming months.
Trigueros is one of the best ball-playing midfielders in La Liga on his day and Raba was one of the sensations of last season after progressing through the club’s youth ranks. With both of them fit and firing, Villarreal will become a different proposition.
Prediction: Sevilla 2-2 Villarreal
Villarreal are a much better team than they showed in last weekend’s loss and if they can get back key players and avoid costly mistakes they can be more than a match for Sevilla.
The hosts must be starting to feel the effects of their European exertions, and this game could well be a highly entertaining and chance-laden score draw.
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