Hard to imagine that it's only been a year since CA Osasuna last visited El Madrigal. A brace from Juanfran, who will not trouble us today, led to a 0-2 defeat and was Ernesto Valverde's last act at the club. How fortunes have changed under Juan Carlos Garrido.
But Osasuna remains a physical challenge for El Submarino Amarillo, having taken points from its last four visits. Villarreal CF will complete the first half of the La Liga season in a Champions League spot regardless of today's result, but three points would go some way toward ensuring that outcome at year-end.
Part of today's challenge will be injuries. Six players were left out of the squad (in increasing order of expected shelf time): Marchena, Cazorla, Senna, Nilmar, Juan Carlos, and Ángel, and Bruno is an unwelcome late doubt. So we welcome Cicinho to the club (from riding the pine at AS Roma) and Cristóbal and Xavi Oliva back from the dead.
Garrido's 18-man squad:
Keepers: Diego López & Oliva.
Defenders: Mario, Capdevila, Musacchio, Catalá, Gonzalo, Joan Oriol & Cicinho.
Midfielders: Bruno, Matilla, Borja Valero, Cani, Jefferson Montero & Cristóbal.
Strikers: Rossi, Altidore & Marco Ruben.
A different look to my expected XI:
Mario – Musacchio – Gonzalo (C) – Capdevila
Cani – Matilla – Borja – Montero
Ruben – Rossi
Prediction: It would be nice to take an early lead and rest up for Tuesday's Copa vuelta at the Sánchez Pizjuán. But Osasuna will make things tough, despite its league-worst away record: 2 points out of a possible 27, with only 4 goals in favor. I'll say 2-1 to Villarreal, with Ruben continuing en racha and a late Osasuna tally. Endavant Villarreal!