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A trip to Pamplona: Can we avoid being stampeded on?

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A bull run during the San Fermin festival.
A bull run during the San Fermin festival.

Pamplona or Iruña(Basque) is the capital city of Navarra region in Spain. The claim to fame of Pamplona is the running of the bulls at the annual San Fermín festival in July. Few outside the La Liga regulars know that Club Deportivo Osasuna also hails from Pamplona.
Reyno de Navarra (formerly known as El Sadar) is one of the most intimidating places for visiting teams. Passionate fans and stands hugging the touchline create a great atmosphere for football.



Los Rojillos have been playing some great football, especially at home where they are undefeated in 7 games (4 wins and 3 draws). They have given up just 4 goals at home. Osasuna are nestled comfortably in 9th 3 points ahead of Atlético Madrid and Getafe.

The Submarine's away form is absolutely atrocious. They haven't won an away game in La Liga since March 2011. Coming off of a disappointing draw against 2nd B side Mirandés and avoiding relegation only on goal difference, this is a must win game, if there ever was one. Garrido might be on his way if doesn't get a result in Reyno de Navarra.

Taming the "Osasuna bulls" on their home track is an unenviable task. But that is what is needed to keep the Submarine out of the relegation zone as well as Garrido in the managerial chair of Villarreal.

Tactics and match-ups

Osasuna normally lines up in a 4-3-3. The 4-man defence is anchored by the experienced Miguél Flaño.

Raúl García who used to be the favourite of Vicente Calderon's boo-birds is playing great in the midfield. Returning to his home club seems to have rejuvenated him. He is the team's joint top-scorer on 4. Along wth Raúl García are the experienced Patxi Puñal and the talented Iranian Javed Nekounam. A very balanced and a hardworking midfield.

Upfront they play with Ibrahima-Nino-Cejudo of which both Ibrahima and Nino are in good touch.

Garrido might switch back to a 4-2-3-1 formation for this game in an attempt to keep the shape compact and minimize risks. Another problem that he has to address is that of Nilmar's ineffectiveness. If he doesn't improve, it might be a more sensible approach to play Hernán Pérez who is in fine nick and employ Marco Ryben as the lone striker and pushing up Borja Valero to play just behind Ruben.

Podcast where Sid Allen and Ravi preview the game.

Midfield Battle

The key to this game like most others is in the midfield. Osasuna's midfield is playing well and their midfielders score a high % of the goals of the team.
Bruno-Senna, Cani and Hernán will have their task cut-out in this respect. I suspect Garrido will try to keep Borja's defensive duties to the minimum and give him the free role in attacking.

Squads and line-ups

Villarreal

Diego López, César, Mario, Ángel, Zapata, Gonzalo, Joan Oriol, Musacchio, Marcos Senna, Bruno, Hernán Pérez, Borja Valero, Cani, Camuñas, Castellani, Joselu, Nilmar y Marco Ruben.


Expected Line-up 4-2-3-1

Diego López; Ángel-Zapata-Musacchio-Oriol; Senna-Bruno; Hernán-Borja-Cani; Ruben


Osasuna

Fernández, Riesgo, Sergio, Damia, Roversio, Flaño, Satrustegui, Raúl García, Nekounam, Puñal, Cejudo, Nino, Ibrahima, Lolo, Lamah, Anunciatta, Timor, Lekic


Expected Line-up 4-3-3

Fernández; Roversio-Flaño-Sergio-Damía; Raúl García-Nekounam-Puñal; Cejudo-Nino-Ibrahima

Prediction

Villarreal needs a win badly, for the Nth time. But unless they improve their performance drastically, they have little chance of getting a result at the Reyno de Navarra.
If Racing win tomorrow, Villarreal will need at least a point to avoid spending the winter break in the relegation zone.

Despite all the urgency, I am not confident that this team can pull off a result in such a tough place. I predict another road loss. 2-1. (Needless to say, I will be the happiest groguet to be proven wrong on this.)

Endavant Villarreal! Vamos Submarino