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Spain is different

Plus, a look ahead as Villarreal prepare to face Osasuna

Villarreal CF v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Photo by Fotopress/Getty Images

Villarreal prepare for a trip to Osasuna, needing to put yesterday’s match out of their heads as well as prepare for life without Sergio Asenjo in goal for awhile. I’m going to look back briefly before looking ahead, since there has been much more in the Spanish media today about yesterday’s match.

Looking Back:

Bruno Soriano won’t play against Osasuna since he received his fifth yellow card of the season....for his “handball”. Villarreal may appeal and I am sure will, but I doubt it would be overturned in time for Wednesday anyhow. Besides, the referee’s committee is angry with Sr. Roig for noting that the referees left the stadium with Real Madrid bags of goodies. Real Madrid, meanwhile, are protesting to the league that in recent matches (including yesterday’s) the commentators have “not been supportive of Madrid”. Seriously.

So the referee, among other things, awarded a penalty to Madrid for a play which the referees were specifically told should not be a penalty (a ball that bounces off a teammate and strikes the arm—never mind that in this case the ball actually hit Bruno’s chest). But all he got from Real Madrid and carried out in the goodie bag was some souvenirs including signed photos of players, so what’s the big deal? (more amusement: MARCA claiming since Villarreal handed out bags to referees in 2011-12, so “bag-gate” happens all the time) Well, yes: the home team hands out trinkets to the presi of the visitors (usually, in our case, a yellow submarine) and can do so to the refs as well. That is why Sr. Roig said he didn’t know what was in the bag, but ‘it wasn’t ceramics’.) No one is suggesting the ref threw the match for a few pins and stickers, but Sr. Roig said the obvious. After what happened yesterday in the match, for the refs to be seen leaving OUR stadium with Real Madrid bags, it doesn’t look good. Appearances matter. But Spain is different, I guess.

Oh, yes, turns out until Gil Manzano became a referee in the Segunda, he was a member (and president) of his local Madrid supporter’s club, but what’s the big deal? And, of course, everyone knows that when it comes to the referee assignments, the big two call the shots (as for that matter, their influence on the schedule). You’d think, again, that appearances would matter, that proprieties would at least be observed. But again, Spain is different.

To be clear, unlike many fans of Villarreal in Spain, I don’t support Villarreal AND one of either Barcelona or Madrid. I will never understand that. Another way in which...Spain is different.

Looking Ahead: (I did promise I would!!)

Oh, Osasuna. Sorry. We play in Pamplona on Wednesday. Obviously the first decision Escribá has to make is goalkeeper. Andrés Fernandez played for Osasuna, of course, had his best years there, so I expect that alone will be enough to give him the start, plus he seems to have been preferred to Barbosa anyway. But the third goal yesterday was so soft, maybe the coach will change his mind?

The pluses from yesterday’s match were the interchanges among Manu, Casti, Baka and Adrian. I think Cheryshev gets a start at left wing here, though, and Soldado partners Bakambu. I would start him in this match and let Sansone, assuming he is okay to play, sub for him late if needed. Rodri will of course replace the suspended Bruno, and probably Alvaro comes in for Musacchio or Ruiz.

Looking further ahead:

Realistically, we have nine clubs vying for the top six spots in La Liga.

March doesn’t have many games—only four due to the international break—but Villarreal’s will be difficult. Three are away. Osasuna should be a win on paper, but that doesn’t always mean much; Las Palmas have faded a bit, but still are 6-5-2 at home. Celta away is always hard, and they have 8 wins in 11 home matches so far, though our visit will be sandwiched in between the two legs with Krasnodar, which might help.

Our only home match in March comes up on Saturday, when we host Espanyol; they have been playing well. They and we essentially have the same schedule the rest of the year, but flipped—they play teams at home we face away, and vice versa.

Eibar is mostly playing the same schedule as us, but two matches later; the tradeoff is Depor (H) and Valencia (A) for us, Real Sociedad (A) and Real Madrid (H) for them. Definite advantage to us there.

Athletic Club is two matches behind that, so there is a further tradeoff: Sporting Gijon (H) and Barcelona (A) for us, Sevilla (A) and Malaga (H) for them. So, slight advantage to us schedule-wise, all four matches considered?

The old cliche ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’ applies to Villarreal now. Time to build on the positives from yesterday, forget the negatives, and go on a winning streak. Especially at home: if we could win all of our remaining home matches, we would have 57 points (and have beaten each of the three clubs closest to us).