The mainstay of modern Iranian football: Javad Nekounam.
Lots of story lines today. The return of Javier Camuñas to his former home ground. The absences of veterans Jonathan de Guzmán and Carlos Marchena from the Villarreal squad. The extensive pressure on manager Juan Carlos Garrido.
But I want to focus on a positive story, even if unrelated to Villarreal. So let's consider Osasuna's sparkling start to the 2011-12 La Liga campaign.
This marks Osasuna's twelfth consecutive season in the top flight of Spanish football, same as for Villarreal. The Pamplona side has finished ahead of us on two occasions: 2002-03 (11th to our 15th) and 2005-06 (a stunning 4th to our 7th). 2011-12 is significant for another reason: CA Osasuna has now spent more years in the top flight (34) than in any other division of Spanish football.
The rojillos are looking for a second taste of European football in recent times. With a win today, the home side would go fifth(!) in the table, bringing back memories of their stunning Champions League form in 2005-06. The only La Liga match I have attended in person was a top-of-the-table Barcelona-Osasuna clash that season; a certain Lionel Messi was just making a name for himself on the world stage.
Sadly, back to reality: Villarreal has won all of four matches this season. And beating Odense, Mallorca, Rayo Vallecano, and Real Betis at home, albeit keeping a clean sheet each time, does not inspire confidence. Ditto for Osasuna's unblemished home record this season, along with our limited success in Pamplona--two wins from eleven matches.
Villarreal expected XI (4-2-3-1): D. López; Mario, Zapata, Musacchio, Oriol; Senna, Bruno; Cani, Borja, Camuñas (go with a hunch); Nilmar.
The match begins at 12 noon Eastern Time. Let's hope for streams, I think? Endavant Villarreal!