Villarreal have been impressive so far in the preseason, with the 0-27 and 0-10 victories over regional teams, as well as the 1-4 victory over Italian powerhouse Juventus. They didn't slow down when the real competition began, winning 1-3 away to Breda, and then taking care of the tie with a 6-1 home victory. The question now is whether they can continue the impressive run of form as the long, grinding La Liga season begins.
Villarreal do not have an easy task in front of them for the first match of the season. Osasuna have been in a good run of form for a while. At the end of last season, they closed out with victories over Barcelona and Real Madrid to stay afloat in La Liga by a single point. Since that time, they have gone unbeaten in ten preseason matches. In their most recent match, they defeated Deportivo La Coruna 4-2.
Ignoring the Basque side's current hot streak, Osasuna always plays Villarreal well, especially when the teams collide in Pamplona. Since the 2005-2006 season, Osasuna have won three, Villarreal have won two, and the teams have drawn three times, with the three draws coming in the last three matches.
Going in Villarreal's favor, they have not lost the season opener since the 2005-2006 season, when Osasuna defeated them in Pamplona. In 2006-2007, Villarreal drew 0-0 against Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. In 2007-2008, it was a 0-3 thrashing of Valencia, and last season, it was the 1-1 draw in Pamplona.
Villarreal welcome the return of Diego Godin, who left Thursday's match with an ankle injury. He has confirmed that he will be ready to go tomorrow, which will relieve starting duties from young Kiko of the B team. Unfortunately, Villarreal will be out the services of Marcano and Gonzalo, who are both recovering from right leg injuries.
In a very interesting move, Valverde has left three midfielders behind - Bruno, Escudero, and Fuster. I really cannot figure that out, but I give him the benefit of the doubt. Correct me if I am wrong, but can't you travel with 19 in La Liga, and then drop one before the match? Valverde's decision, be it well reasoned or not, leaves the team thin in both attacking and defensive midfielders. The one thing I can think is that Valverde plans on giving all of the team's forwards a chance to prove themselves in tomorrow's match, and thus that he won't need a bench full of midfielders.
Keepers: Diego López and Oliva.
Defenders: Javi Venta, Ángel, Fuentes, Godín, Capdevila and Kiko.
Midfielders: Santi Cazorla, Marcos Senna, Pires, Ibagaza, Eguren and Cani.
Forwards: Jonathan Pereira, Llorente, Nilmar and Rossi.
After Nilmar got a break on Thursday, surely he is set to get the start tomorrow. Also, because of the injuries, it will be Fuentes pairing up with Godin in the middle of the defense. Javi Venta will probably move in front of Ángel, since it was Ángel in there on Thursday. Otherwise, I expect it to look pretty much the same way Valverde has been putting the team forward so far.
Javi Venta - Fuentes - Godín - Capdevila
Santi Cazorla - Marcos Senna - Ibagaza - Cani
Nilmar - Rossi
The match is not on television in the US, but you can check in at rojadirecta.com to find streams. Unfortunately, I will be away from my computer until halftime, but a match thread will be up for all of your commentary. ENDAVANT!