A long wait since the defeat in Valladolid. But Villarreal gets a chance to redeem itself tonight at El Madrigal against a desperate Osasuna. A victory puts the Yellow Submarine on 40 points, nine ahead of seventh-place Sevilla, and it keeps the pressure on Champions League hopefuls Athletic Bilbao. All to play for, according to striker Ikechukwu Uche.
Tactics. Gracia has done a great job with limited resources. Armenteros, Cejudo, and de las Cuevas are a decent midfield trio, and Oriol Riera is an adequate lone striker, but Osasuna lacks depth and quality elsewhere. Worst of all for the rojillos, once-and-future (maybe not now) Villarreal target Andrés Fernández has made a number of careless miscues in net. And they have cost points that the boys from Pamplona may rue at season's end.
Lineups. You would expect the front four as outlined above from the visitors, with ex-Girona striker Acuña as an unlikely variation. Villarreal's selection will be more interesting based on Bruno Soriano's injury absence, but Marcelino García Toral is not known for drastic positional switches. So logic dictates that Tomás Pina and Manu Trigueros will play in the doble pivote, with Javier Aquino and Moi Gómez on the wings. It looks as if Chechu Dorado has nosed his way in front of Gabriel Paulista at center back, so the back five should remain unchanged (though Jaume Costa has disappointed recently). And Giovani dos Santos and Uche are Marcelino's trusted hitmen.
Squad. With Bruno's oblique niggle and the long-term midfield absentees, Edu Ramos and new loanee Joan Román come in for midfield cover. Fellow loanee Óliver Torres will be on the shelf for a few weeks due to a shoulder injury suffered in his last match with Atlético Madrid.
My expected Villarreal XI (4-2-2-2): Asenjo; Mario, Musacchio, Dorado, J. Costa; Manu, Pina; Aquino, Moi; Gio, Uche.
My expected Villarreal bench: J. Carlos; Gabriel, Jokic; Edu Ramos, Román; Jony, Perbet.
Prediction. 3-1 to the hosts, with Uche to continue his goal-scoring binge.
The match begins at 4 pm Eastern Time (how lovely) and airs on BeIN Sports en Español. Only game in town at this hour (of course), so expect streams. Endavant Villarreal!