Villarreal host Osasuna at El Madrigal for the first time since February 2014, when we won 3-1 with two goals from Jeremy Perbet and one from Manu Trigueros. The Navarre side were relegated that year, were nearly relegated form the Segunda the year following, but got into the playoffs and then defeated Girona in the promotion final to get back to the Primera.
That history might suggest this year’s goal should simply be survival, and that’s correct. Osasuna (the team is based in Pamplona, ‘osasuna’ is a Basque word meaning health or strength) has financial issues, shall we say, and not a lot of money to work with. They did sell midfielder Mikel Merino to Dortmund for €3.8m, and bought Sergio Leon from Elche (21 goals in the Segunda last season) for €1.7m, and former Arsenal youth player Fran Merida for €500k. Other than that, it’s free transfers and a few loanees, including Oriol Riera from Depor.
Osasuna this year: Osasuna have played two away matches so far, and lost to Madrid 5-2 and drew with Malaga 1-1. In both cases, they have played a 5-3-2, while at home they have gone to a more attacking 4-2-3-1. They don’t have a couple of their midfielders, including de las Cuevas, available for this one, and defensively they are missing their #1 goalkeeper and one of the Flaños.
Osasuna have some talent in attack, but the question is really whether they have enough talent in midfield and the defense holds up well enough for it to matter.
Villarreal: Feelings are good after a draw in the Bernabeu and consecutive wins in the league. That’s good, but as coach Escribá pointed out, we cannot be overconfident. In the past we have often played poorly against teams like this, and since Osasuna is set up to defend and let us have more possession than usual, it’s going to be a different style of match than what we’ve seen so far this season.
Prediction: I’d like to say an easy victory, but Villarreal don’t do easy very well, and in our last couple of matches we haven’t played well for the entire 90 minutes. Let’s say 3-1 Villarreal, but the third goal coming late.