Villarreal host Real Sociedad at El Madrigal to end the first half of the league schedule, coming as it does only four days after the two clubs met in the Copa del Rey. Both teams approached that first leg octafinal match in the same way: probe the other's defenses, rest some key players until late in the game, then go for a winner.
This game I expect we'll see both teams out their strongest XI out there. For La Real, that means Agirretxe, Vela and Griezmann will start up front, Rubén Pardo and Xabi Prieto also coming in to midfield. On Thursday Griezmann looked quite dangerous and Juan Carlos came up big to keep Vela off the scoresheet.
What shouldn't change is the tactics of coach Arrasate (quote a natty dresser, by the way); expect the visitors to let us have some possession, pack their penalty area with well-positioned defenders, and break quickly on the counter whenever they break up our play. One thing we'll have to watch is the ability of players like José Ángel to cross the ball to the far post for an oncoming striker to hit home--this tactic nearly worked a couple of times on Thursday.
Villarreal: As of the date of this writing, we haven't announced our side, but we do know Cani is out; we have word from faithful Robin that Chechu Dorado, who came out of the Rayo match with injuries, should be good to go; Hernan Perez is not in the team, and there will be a place in the squad for 17-year old Nahuel Leiva.
My projected starting XI: Asenjo; Mario, Musacchio, Dorado, Jaume Costa; Aquino, Bruno, Trigueros , Moi; Gio, Uche.
I would not be *totally* surprised if Gabriel played instead of Dorado, Pina replaced Trigueros. But I'm thinking we are going to need less speed than guile.
My prediction: Sadly for rebuilding Fortress El Madrigal, I'm thinking 1-1.
On a personal note, Real Sociedad in El Madrigal has a special resonance for me. I joined this blog as a contributor in August 2010, and our opening match that season was against La Real in El Madrigal. I remember cooking a paella and watching the match (streamed via computer) on our back porch in Massachusetts. We lost 1-0, despite throwing everything at them the last ten minutes or so in search of a goal.
Unfortunately, I have to miss this one--Sidarth will be running the thread--but hopefully we'll bring home all three points. I promise I'll make a nice paella at our California home if we win! Endavant!!!