Tomorrow in the Reyno de Navarra, Villarreal will conclude its 2010-11 La Liga campaign as it began it, with a visit to the Basque lands--this time it's a visit to Navarre and its capital city of Pamplona. That first match of the season--so long ago it seems--was at the end of August in San Sebastian, and Villarreal lost 1-0, playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation for much of the game. Garrido soon junked that approach!
Villarreal finish the season in fourth place in the league regardless of what happens. Osasuna, though, are not assured of remaining in the Primera, but only need a point to ensure safety regardless of what happens below them (at least, that's what I understand from consulting the 243 possible scenarios)
Osasuna gave Villarreal a good match at El Madrigal; the final was 4-2 but it was only 1-0 at the half. Cani's wonder goal from the halfway line made it 2-0 and both teams conceded sloppy goals from set pieces.
The Gorritxoak (that's the Basque for "Little Reds") are no strangers to last-day heroics, having faced possible relegation nine times before and survived on six occasions. The stands in Pamplona will doubtless be full of hardy, somewhat wet Basques--it's supposed to rain heavily during the day-- who will be supporting their team to escape the drop yet again.
And frankly, I'm hoping Osasuna stay up. Their team isn't great, but it's better than many. 35 year-old Walter Pandiani (Cristiano Ronaldo's friend) has seen his playing time and goal tally diminish this year, but young Kike Sola has picked up the slack and will probably be the "tip" of a 4-2-3-1 formation for the home team tomorrow.
In midfield, Osasuna has an Iranian connection, Masoud Shoaei and Javad Nakounam. They missed the match in Vila-real because of national team duty; Nakounam is available today but Masoud is injured. Javier Camuñas is a midfielder I remember as being pretty good from the first match.
The back line features Monreal and the Portuguese player Nelson, but he's out too. Keeper Ricardo (39 years old!) never gets much attention but is usually okay, though he did contrive to hand Athletic Bilbao a valuable three points in the Basque derby recently.
Villarreal will be missing some players as well. Marchena and Cani are injured and Nilmar has been given leave to miss the match.
Coach Garrido has called up several players from Villarreal C, including attacker Sergi Mut and defenders Diego Jimenez and Pere Martinez. Unfortunately, Pere picked up an injury and won't be able to play.
Look for Villarreal to go with Marco Ruben (who scored against Osasuna last time) and Giuseppe Rossi up top. Marcos Senna, who hopes to renew his contract soon, will join Borja Valero, Santi Cazorla and Bruno in midfield. At least that's what I expect.
The back line is even thinner than usual with Marchena's absence, but Catala would appear to be the obvious choice to partner Musacchio in the middle with Capdevila and Mario on the outside. Though why not play Cicinho, just this once?
Villarreal usually do well in the last match of the season and I figure Rossi would like to bag a goal or two. I predict a 2-2 result that sends everyone home happy.
My co-managers of this blog and I will continue to keep you informed on Villarreal news during the summer, of course, but the end of the season seems an appropriate time to thank all of you who have supported Villarreal USA this year, especially those of you who comment and contribute to the growth of this site. It's been an exciting year for us and for the website, as it has been for the Yellow Submarine.
Canteu, penyes! Canta, afició! Endavant, a triomfar, a guanyar Villarreal!!