The town of Vila-real is busy celebrating the feast day of Saint Pasqual, the patron saint of Eucharitic congresses according to wikipedia, who died on May 17 1592 and is buried in Vila-real. It's a big event, with parades, midnight open-air barbecues on the streets, and so on, and sounds like a great time.
And on Saturday, Villarreal hosts Girona in a match that holds the key to our automatic promotion chances. With the festival going on and given the importance of the game, the club is trying its best to ensure a large crowd behind the Submarine on Saturday, with perhaps as many as 20,000 expected at the game.
Our opponents: Girona have surprised all season. Certainly not being picked as promotion candidates when the season started (they finished fifteenth last year, and hadn't come in the top of half of the table since joining the Segunda in 2008), they have made the most of a €4.5 million budget.
They have largely avoided losing streaks: they did lose back-to-back matches to Elche and Alcorcon in December, and had only one win in eight games in a stretch in January and February. (Incidentally, the first three of those matches were against the three teams they have to play yet after Villarreal).
But they are 8-1-3 in their last twelve matches, though only 2-1-2 on the road, and are coming off a rare home loss. They are definitely a better attacking team than defending team. They have allowed 33 goals on the road in 19 games, which is one of the poorer records in the division. But, they have scored 25 away too: only Almeria and Barcelona B have done better.
Carlos Acuña is their danger man: he has 15 goals this season. He's strong in the air, and Felipe and Jofre have both been good at putting crosses in for him. They'll set up in a 4-2-3-1 with Luso and Tebar in the middle, looking to create quick attacks (that's assuming Tebar is able to play; he missed last week's match).
Goalkeeper Dani Mallo said this is a big game, but not a "final" for Girona--if they lose, they will be a point behind with three matches left. But for Villarreal, it is a must-win situation, because a loss would put them five points back (effectively, six) with three to play, and a draw would leave Girona two points up and in possession of the tiebreak. So win it must be, then.
Villarreal: Coach Marcelino isn't giving anything away, as he had practice behind closed doors just as the team did before Alcorcon. So no insights from our friend Robin Harris as to what took place, unfortunately! We do however have the team list:
Goalkeepers: Juan Carlos, Mariño.
Defenders: Mario, Joan Oriol, Jaume Costa, Mellberg, Pablo Íñiguez, Musacchio
Midfielders: Bruno, Tito Canteros, Manu Trigueros, Marcos Senna, Cani, Aquino.
Strikers: Uche, Perbet, Gerard Moreno, Jonathan Pereira.
Still no Chechu Dorado or Farinós, and in spite of rumors to the contrary, no Hernán Pérez, either. And no spot for Moi Gomez, with four strikers named to the squad instead. I expect to see the same XI as against Alcorcon with the exception of Musacchio for Iñiguez.
Not much else to say, really. More than 1800 Girona fans will make the three and-a-half hour trip, and there could be as many as 20,000 in the ground tomorrow for this one. Let's win it.
ENDAVANT VILLARREAL, SEMPRE ENDAVANT.