Villarreal host Osasuna in a match that concludes this week of La Liga, with the Submarine hoping to move closer to fourth place after Athletic's draw with Real Madrid (we have to play Madrid next week while the Basques are away to Celta, so picking up these three points would be helpful, to say the least).
Both teams come in with some key players missing-- Osasuna will be missing creative player Sisi and defensive key Arribas; Villarreal is still without Cani, and now Bruno is missing as well, with a minor muscle tear--word is he should be okay for next week.
To put it bluntly, there will be no excuse if we don't win this match. Osasuna's main attack should come from set pieces, where they'll try to find the head of Oriol Riera, who's scored seven of their 18 goals so far this season. But even without Bruno and Cani, Villarreal should control possession and create most of the chances in this match.
With Hernan Perez now in Greece, and Oliver Torres not yet available, a midfield four of Moi, Manu, Pina and Aquino looks pretty certain, but who will be up front? Gio and Uche, probably, but they're going to have to have to play a WHOLE lot better than last week against Valladolid. Back four probably the same as usual--Mario, Musacchio, Chechu Dorado, Jaume Costa in front of Sergio Asenjo.
Of course, Jeremy Perbet and Jony Pereira started against Osasuna in late August, and the Frenchman scored the first goal, Jony assisted on the second--but the third was set up by Gio for Uche, who had both come on as subs in the second half.
Osasuna is a better team than they were then. Ex-Villarreal B coach Javi Gracia wasn't good enough for Almería, even after taking them up last season, but he's improved things in Pamplona. They sit just above the relegation zone, but they have beaten the teams below them--(Valladolid, Rayo, and Betis--in the first half of the season, so have to feel confident they can do it again.
Scoring is a fundamental problem for the Gorritxoak; they've scored more than one goal exactly once in the league since beating Rayo 3-1 at the end of October. Meanwhile, while Villarreal have scored many more goals (39 to 18), of late we've had some annoying blanks--Real Sociedad twice in the Copa, Valladolid last week--and even though we scored twice against Almeria, it was hardly an inspiring performance.
So the keys here for us are to score early--preferably more than once--and then guard against dead-ball situations and quick counterattacks (de las Cuevas and Armenteros probably the guys to watch). You can check out the mini-podcast below to get a prediction from Sid and me.
Time to take a look at yellow cards, they start to get important now:
Jaume Costa 8; Bruno 6; Pina 4; Manu Trigueros, Jony Pereira, Perbet 3
Sr. Tebas has yet again favored us with a Monday night local time kickoff, keeping the crowd down....kickoff will be at 4PM eastern in the US, beinSport's second channel covering it as usual. Endavant Villarreal!!