Villarreal is back on the road to success, we think. With 9 points out of the last 12, the only blemish a respectable loss in Sevilla, the team looks like it has turned the corner. Nilmar, Rossi, and Llorente have found their scoring touch, the midfield is successfully rotating players, and the backline is improving, if a bit unsteadily. But with only 1 point in 5 away matches so far this season, not everything is fixed.
I'll admit it: I'm a huge fan of Real Sporting de Gijon. They're now my second-favorite team in La Liga. Why? Incredibly passionate and knowledgeable fans (who travel to away matches in hordes and are not ultras), an open, attacking style, and a manager who leaves his emotions on the pitch (and just earned himself a two-year extension). After escaping relegation on last season's final day, the team has become a year wiser in the ways of the Primera. Adding criminally misused Atletico de Madrid youngster Miguel de las Cuevas to Mate Bilic, Barral, and Castro makes for a potent, if unspectacular, group up front. More than talent, hard work is what makes them successful, especially in back. Cheers to a side trying to emulate Villarreal's ways, the small-town club aspiring to European glory. But their resolve can be put into question by Villarreal's class.
Here is Ernesto Valverde's 18-man squad for the match:
GKs (2): Diego López and Oliva.
DFs (5): Ángel, Gonzalo, Godín, Marcano and Capdevila.
MFs (8): Senna, Eguren, Cani, Bruno, Fuster, Ibagaza, Escudero and Pires.
Fs (3): Nilmar, Rossi and Llorente.
Welcome back, Ariel Ibagaza. And Cani also makes the squad, though it sounds like he won't make but a cameo appearance. Santi Cazorla and Javi Venta miss out through injury, while Fuentes and Jony Pereira were not chosen by Valverde. Per maddi's inside information, Fuentes' absence is to be expected, but Pereira's is surprising. Two possible reasons: Valverde is disenchanted with his form (as compared to the other three strikers), which may suggest Marco Ruben's call-up to the A team come January. Alternately, this is an anticipated stylistic variation.
Assuming the latter, here is the 4-4-1-1 formation I expect:
Capdevila – Gonzalo – Marcano – Angel Lopez
Escudero – Ibagaza – Bruno – Pires
Game starts at 12 noon Eastern Time, 6 pm in Spain (in case maddi had too much sangria last night). Endavant Villarreal! I can't watch the game live, but I'll be back with comments later on Saturday. Nick, feel free to take over this thread.
Nick : My pleasure! Only just home in time for the second half! Thanks for the recap kqql. Now for a bit of commentary!
47' - Sporting go close from a header!
49' - Great control from Bruno in the midfield. Really on form at the moment. Sporting getting stuck in
51' - As I say that he gives a bad ball and Godin has to make a last ditch challenge. Great commitment from the Uruguayan
52' - He's down holding his shoulder, gone off for treatment...
54' - Back on, still a bit tentative though
58' - Sporting really racking up the fouls and get their first yellow. No real clear chances so far this half!
60' - Eguren on for Senna, interesting
62' - Poor touch from Cani ends a good attack
65' - Llorente comes on for Nilmar, Mate Bilic comes on for Sporting, he's a dangerous striker!
72' - Not much happening, subs haven't made a real difference
73' - As I say it Gonzalo gives away a penalty as the last man and gets a red. My god!!!!!!!
74' - Lopez saves it but we are too slow and Bilic gets the rebound! 1-0
76' - Ibagaza on for Cani, he sends Llorente through 1 on 1 but he can't finish!
81' - Pires gets involved with a Sporting player, gets a yellow for his troubles.
84' - Sporting waste a good chance
87' - Eguren leads with his arm on Bilic in the box, another penalty!
88' - LOPEZ SAVES AGAIN!!! We get the rebound this time!
90' - 5 min extra time
92' - Final ball hasn't been good enough tonight
Disappointing, Sporting didn't really deserve the win but on the other hand we created only one good chance in the second half. Ah well!