Villarreal travel to Athletic Bilbao desperate for three points to hold onto third place in La Liga, with Atletico, Espanyol and Sevilla trying to overtake them. Villarreal come in off a win that equated a loss against Zenit. Prior to that match, Villarreal drew with Racing, lost to Zenit, beat Murcia on the most questionable of goals, and drawing against Murcia.
The Basque side has been on a string of good form lately, and
has the advantage of an intimidating home stadium. Bilbao are sitting at 11th place on 29 points, and only 5 points above the drop. They will be desperate to continue their recent run of wins. Over their last five matches, Athletic Bilbao has won two (Atletico and Levante), lost only one (Zaragoza), and drawn two (Racing Santander in the Copa del Rey, and Barca in La Liga). Athletic play an over-the-top style, using the long ball and the arial game to score. Athletic's crossing should especially concern the Yellows because of Diego Lopez's difficulty against Zenit.
Villarreal recognize the danger of playing in Athletic Bilbao's San Mamés. "San Mamés is one of the most difficult grounds in Spain and Athletic are strong there,'' said Diego Lopez. Pelligrini added, "They are a complicated opponent to play, especially with a very special atmosphere inside the ground; for me San Mamés is the liveliest stadium in Spanish football."
But Villarreal enter the match with the will to win. Nihat told the press: "Those who want to take our third place will suffer. It will not be easy for us, but it will be more difficult for our rivals."
Injuries: Rossi is out for two weeks with a sprained ankle suffered against Zenit. Also low through injury are Josico, who went out of the Zenit match with a leg injury, and of course Fabricio Fuentes is out for the rest of the year. Javi Venta is also unavailable for the match. However Matias Ferndandez returns to the bench for the match.
Traveling Squad: Diego Lopez and Viera; Gonzalo, Godín, Capdevila, Angel, Cygan and Josemi; Senna, Bruno, Cani, Pires, Cazorla, Mati and Eguren; Nihat, Guille and Tomasson.
Probable Starting Lineup: (subject to update)
Angel, Godin, Gonzalo, Capdevila
Cani, Senna, Bruno, Pires
Follow the match on Soccernet's Gamecast. (I will not be liveblogging matches that are not on television in the States, because I couldn't provide any more info than Gamecast can).
Prediction: Athletic 1-2 Villarreal. Look for Cani and Pires to have great matches.