In Janauary we were full of optimism, but the injury to Bruno and the loss to Barcelona in the Copa semis started us on a downward spiral of injuries and points dropped, and....here we are. Still sixth, thanks to the first half of the season, but Malaga, Athletic Club and Bilbao are all within striking distance.
So. Real Sociedad. 10 points above relegation, 14 points behind us (with five teams in between), with 6 games left to play. The defining image of their campaign might just be David Moyes, banished from the bench, sitting with fans enjoying some crisps while we knocked them out of the Copa. I can't say as Moyes has gotten consistent results since taking over, but they have for the most part won the matches you'd expect them to win and gotten some helpful draws here and there. I can't imagine the Scotsman is totally happy with the roster he has, but he can address that later.
These two sides have been yoked together in the Copa the last two years, but Villarreal has dominated in the league (remember, we won 4-0 at El Madrigal in Moyes's first match). Come to that, my first match as a writer for Villarreal USA was against Real Sociedad--a 1-0 loss in August 2011 thanks to a goal from ex-Villarreal man Joseba Llorente. A beautiful New England day it was, too....
Villarreal: Enough of that. Our squad is affected by numerous absences. I've been campaigning for Joel Campbell to play as a second striker.... Asenjo and Juan Carlos; Mario, Rukavina, Jaume Costa, Jokic, Víctor Ruiz, Dorado and Javi Jiménez (number 63); Pina, Trigueros, Jonathan dos Santos, Moi Gómez, Campbell, Sergio Marcos and Alfonso Pedraza (number 61); Gerard and Fran Sol (dorsal 43).
I can't imagine we will start any of the newcomers; we either abandon the 4-4-2 for a 4-5-1 with Gerard up top by his lonesome, or we go for Campbell with Gerard, which might be interesting. The back four is interesting, too. Maybe Tomas Pina at center back (he was an emergency CB against Cadiz, if you recall) if Dorado can't go?
Real Sociedad: Do they care about this match? Well, last year we defeated them here on the last day of the season to pull ahead of them in the standings, which meant qualifying for the Europa League group stage was a lot easier. That, and the fact we trounced them in Moyes's first match and knocked them out of the Copa, is probably going to motivate the home side--even though they'll finish mid-table regardless.
They have injury concerns too: Zaldua is out, Ansotegi, Gonzalo Castro and Inigo Martinez are all listed as doubtful. I tried to find out more from La Real's website, but all I can tell you is if you're at the Anoeta, you can get a porcion (that's a slice, correct?) of ham, bacon and cheese pizza for €2.50 at the break. Oh, the research we do here.
Crisps, pizzas....what about the scoreline? I feel as though I should channel Robin's optimism, since I'm doing the preview in his stead, and go for 1-0 to us. But probably given all our injuries, and the fact they'll be playing in front of a supportive crowd, 2-1 to them. Or 2-0. But I'll be watching tomorrow, hoping I'm wrong. Endavant!!