We travel to the heart of Spain's Basque country this weekend, Bilbao, home to the Guggenheim museum of modern art and the slightly less cultured stylings of Athletic Club Bilbao.
Still despite their lack of finesse they currently sit on 6 points with wins over Espanyol and Xerez. They also beat Austria Vienna 3-0 during the week. La Liga Loca's Tim Stannard described them aptly as 'determined'. The match will be played in San Mames, the oldest and probably the most intimidating stadium in Spain. Even more so than Pamplona, the fans are very close to the pitch and are amazingly vocal. We are most certainly in for a game on Sunday. In defense they have Amorebieta and Iraola, Javi Martinez will play as a holding midfielder, you may remember the screamer he scored in this fixture last year? In attack Bilbao will be relying on Fran Yeste and Mikael Susaeta to provide the ammunition to the powerful Fernando Llorente and the diminutive yet eternal Joseba Etxeberria.
From our point of view, well we haven't got out of second gear yet, Mallorca were saved by the rain and we were unlucky not to beat Osasuna. Levski took a while to break down but importantly we got our first win and are still unbeaten. Valverde left out Bruno, Fuentes and Escudero again whilst Marcos Senna is injured. I agree with Kenez and expect to see this lineup :
Angel, Gonzalo, Godin, Capdevila;
Cani, Eguren, Ibagaza, Cazorla;
Eguren will need to be on form to try and get us a decent amount of possession in and around the middle. There's more than enough class in that attacking four to take Bilbao apart. Nilmar can expect to be kicked around so we will have to take advantage of set pieces. We have to try and isolate their back four so we can use the pace of the two lads. I'd be a bit nervous going into this game, if they get on top they will be very hard to breakdown. Their Llorente is a strong centre forward and is a current Spanish international. Godin will have to pick him up with Gonzalo sweeping in behind. A win here is very important and we will have to show a bit of grit. A win would be a real morale booster and would set us up well for next Wednesdays game against Real Money! Check back here tomorrow for streams etc. Vamos!!
Oh, I almost forgot. Tomorrow is All Ireland (Gaelic) Football Final day and it's the biggest day in the Irish sporting calendar. It throws in half an hour before the Villarreal game. I would strongly recommend anyone to either take a trip down to their local Irish bar or have a gander at www.rte.ie where there is always a stream for the Irish diaspora! To put it into context it's like the equivalent of the Superbowl but it's an amateur sport yet it still will have the attention of the whole country. It's a really wonderful spectacle and some of you might find it interesting!