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Sporting Gijon-Villarreal PREVIEW

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This match is anticlimactic for Villarreal, but tremendously important for Sporting as they try to remain in the Primera.

David Ramos/Getty Images

Villarreal play at Sporting Gijon in a match that thankfully has no meaning for the Yellow Submarine--they've already finished in fourth place and now know they'll be seeded in the Champions League play-off round.

Sporting's problem has been they have been pretty much mired in the bottom three or four all season, and that's largely because their transfer budget has been zero--they weren't allowed to sign new players, just bring a few in on loan.  Mascarell, Halilović, Sanabria--they've all done well this year, but even so the team has struggled because otherwise it's basically the same club that competed in the Segunda last season.  It's great that they got promoted, but trying to survive on a shoestring is difficult.

Their season can be basically split into thirds--a beginning that was okay, with 10 points from the first 8 matches; a dreadful middle part, with only one win in 2 1/2 months, and only one draw as well; but, starting with back-to-back victories against Real Sociedad and Valencia in late January, they have managed to at least convert some of those losses into draws, defeat Atleti and Sevilla in Gijon, and now have a chance to stay up.

And it's probably a pretty good one.  Sporting's problem is their defense, which is pretty bad, even at home: only Granada and Depor have allowed more goals at home.  But Villarreal only average one goal a match on the road, which is not very good either.

Villarreal have some defensive concerns of their own with Jaume Costa and Musacchio out.  When these teams played at El Madrigal in January, Villarreal played their classic non-possession but quick strike football.  Sporting had nine corners, twelve shots, but never really threatened, while Soldado and Bakambu combined on two fine goals.

Prediction: The combination of extra motivation for Sporting, a big home crowd (over 6000 showed up to see them train) will be enough to produce a 2-1 win.

However, what goes around...comes around.  Last year Sporting played at Betis in the last match of the Segunda calendar; Betis, already guaranteed to finish as champions, duly rolled over, and Sporting got the second automatic promotion place ahead of Girona.  Now this year, Betis finish at home in the Primera, having nothing to play for, while visitors Getafe can stay up with a win.  So even if Sporting win today, it may not be enough.

Endavant Villarreal!!