I had the good fortune to talk to Allen Dodson of SBNation's fantastic Villarreal blog, VillarrealUSA (seriously, check it out--they do great work over there, I can't recommend it enough) and exchange some questions about our respective sides heading into Madrid's matchup with Villarreal on Wednesday. You can find my responses on their site here (I hope I did a good job!).
Gabe Lezra: Lets cut right to it: will Villarreal avoid relegation this season?
Allen Dodson: I don't want to say no, but I think the odds are at least 50-50 that we are going down, just because our margin for error is gone. Then again, I tend to be pessimistic in hopes of being pleasantly surprised!
GL: What are your thoughts on the coaching change?
AD: The first few games Molina got results by bringing good vibes to the team off the pitch--he was a breath of fresh air after Garrido--but as time went on he seemed more and more detached from things and tactically poor. I think a change had to be made for us to have any chance to stay up. Lotina at least has experience and maybe the team can benefit from that, though with only 11 games to go I'm not sure how much tinkering with the lineup he will be willing to do, and that has been part of our problem under Molina also.
GL: What are Villarreal's most pressing short-term issues? What do you think the club should do to combat them long term?
AD: Other than relegation? Beyond that, the short-term (and medium-term, and long-term) issue is money and wise use thereof. Forget the TV rights split for the moment--we play in a small ground with a small catchment area relative to our main competitors, and sponsorship money is harder to come by as well. The team is trying to make inroads into the Chinese market to bring in some money--you'll see evidence of this on our shirts tomorrow night--but ultimately we are going to have to try to do more with less. Whether we're relegated or not, the blueprint for the next several years has got to be to incorporate players from our cantera into the first team, while investing wisely in a few players from outside to build the team around.
GL: Do you think this side, as it is currently constructed, can contend for European places in Spain? If not, what changes would you make heading into next season (and beyond)?
AD: No, not as currently constructed, but I don't expect this side to remain unchanged in the summer for sure. Here is what I would do in an ideal world: move Cani/Nilmar/Gonzalo/Angel (plus a few fringe players), maybe even Diego López; keep (somehow) Borja Valero and Rossi; sign Martinuccio permanently, bring back Montero and Juan Carlos from loans, and use Hernán Pérez more. Plus, spend money on defenders, especially fullbacks, who can choke off counterattacks and have some pace, and an experienced midfielder who could replace/spell Senna. That team could contend for an EL spot if things broke right. But if Rossi (especially) moves, probably not.
GL: If you were giving advice to Jose Mourinho, which players would you particularly single out on Villarreal as threats to Madrid? What tactics might you employ to stop your own side?
I don't see us having any success from trying to run our possession game--that will just lead to quick counterattacks. I think our best approach is to try to press and box you guys into part of the pitch and put pressure on your wings. Borja Valero is our best passer; Marco Ruben is the only forward we have who can compete physically in the box, and as far as speed goes Hernan Perez and Martinuccio are good. (Personally I would rest Nilmar and go with Martinuccio and Ruben, and drop Cani in favor of Perez, but Lotina might not do that).
GL: Alright, wrapping it up: what's your prediction for Wednesday's game?
We are playing the wrong team at the wrong time for us to have any chance to pick up a result. Villarreal 1, Madrid 3.