So La Liga returns and Villarreal will kick off their 2008-09 campaign in the northern region of Navarra against perennial triers Osasuna. Pamplona is never an easy place to go and we will be put under pressure from both the opposing team and their very vociferous support for the full 90 minutes. Osasuna will try and disrupt us and will do all they can in trying to stop us moving the ball around. Some of their more important Summer acquisitions are defensive midfielder Sunny on loan from Valencia and ex-Barca frontman Santi Ezquerro. I expect both to feature on Sunday alongside side stalwarts Josetxo and Punal and the lively young striker Kike Sola.
From a Villarreal point of view preseason hasn't exactly gone well, losses against Sevilla and Bilbao in Cadiz and then a mauling at home by Valladolid, Pellegrini's squad have not been firing on all cylinders. There are some injury concerns for Sunday's game, Pires is definitely out along with Giuseppe Rossi and Nihat and we face an anxious wait to see if Ariel Ibagaza will be fit. I expect Pellegrini to go for the 4-5-1 formation with either Ibagaza or Mati playing in behind the lone frontman who most likely will be Guille.Llorente hasn't settled yet and I don't see Altidore getting a start in a ground such as this one. I reckon the starting XI should look something like this :
Javi Venta - Gonzalo - Godin - Capdevila
Senna - Eguren
Santi - Mati/Ibagaza - Cani/Mati
I'll be able to post a more definite lineup once the squads are released tomorrow. So check back then. It is very important that we get a good start and get the confidence in the side going. They haven't performed well up to now and they know that but I have a sneaky feeling that yesterdays Champions League draw will have given them a boost (I know it gave me one!) and I fully expect to see a strong performance on Sunday night.
It wont be easy but I reckon we could pull off a 0-1 win, keeping a clean sheet and the home fans quiet will be vital. La Liga de las Estrellas is back!
Ok heres the squad, good news is that Ibagaza does make it :
Porteros: Diego López y Viera.
Defensas: Javi Venta, Gonzalo, Godin, Cygan, Ángel, Capdevila y Fuentes.
Centrocampistas: Marcos Senna, Cani, Eguren, Mati Fernández, Ibagaza, Cazorla y Edmilson.
Delanteros: Guille Franco, Llorente y Altidore
So we should line out somewhat similar to the lineout above. I will probably miss the first half of the game but will try and get a live blog up as soon as I can. The latest edition of Jozy's blog is also out.