The first half of Villarreal's league season finishes off with a home match against Sporting Gijón, Marcelino's old club as both a player and manager. As detailed in a previous post, these two teams really haven't met that much--Sporting spent most of the 2000's in the Segunda, were promoted in 2008 and relegated together with us in 2012, and just got back to La Liga this season. (We did defeat them in a friendly 1-0 at their ground in August).
They haven't found life in La Liga easy, with only 15 points from 18 matches so far. Sporting have a record of 2-1-6 on the road, scoring 7 times and allowing 15 goals.
Their two most dangerous players are loanees--Paraguayan striker Antonio Sanabria (6 goals in 11 matches) is Roma property, and midfielder Alen Halilovic, a young Croatian star, belongs to Barcelona. This is largely because Sporting have had financial problems and haven't been able to bring in more experienced players--in fact, the league just turned down their attempt to sign Borja Viguera from Athletic Club.
Their squad for the match (one will drop out) is Cuéllar, Alberto, Luis Hernández, Álex Menéndez, Bernardo, Barrera, Guerrero, Cases, Lora, Mascarell, Isma López, Carmona, Sanabria, Pablo Pérez, Jony, Rachid, Halilovic, Meré y Dani Ndi.
Villarreal are looking to continue their success in El Madrigal. Since Eibar drew there, Villarreal have won five straight home matches (counting all competitions) including victories over Real Madrid and Valencia. However, the Submarine has had a habit of playing poorly against teams struggling in the league, and there is also the continuing concern over our lack of firepower. It was good to see the Samus get untracked against Athletic Club in midweek, but we really need Roberto Soldado, Leo Baptistao and Cedric Bakambu to start scoring. Of late it's been our midfielders (Bruno Soriano and Denis Suarez, especially) who have been grabbing the goals.
Villarreal's team for this one is:
- Keepers: Barbosa and Areola.
- Defenders: Rukavina, Mario, Víctor Ruiz, Bailly, Musacchio and Adrián Marín.
- Midfielders: Pina, Bruno, Trigueros, Jonathan dos Santos, Denis Suárez, Samu Castillejo and Samuel García.
- Strikers: Soldado, Leo Baptistao y Bakambu.
- The main news here is Jaume Costa is still out, but Eric Bailly's shoulder is evidently OK, and Adrián Marín looks to be a permanent first-teamer now. And, Nahuel Leiva is not included in the call, for the first time this season. He started brightly, but has struggled to impress in recent matches, so that's perhaps not a surprise.
Prediction: I'd really like to see us play well, get a couple of first-half goals, and coast to an easy win for a change. That might be too optimistic, but I do think we will win this, maybe 3-1.