What a difference a year makes. Villarreal traveled to Gijón for the last match of the 2015-16 season, Sporting needing a win to stay up—and they did so, courtesy of a less-than-focused Villarreal performance.
That may (or may not) have been a key reason why Marcelino was abruptly dismissed last August; what is unqestionably true is that Villarreal will need to be disciplined, focused, and determined to pick all three points at the Cerámica on Friday.
Sporting Gijon: Maybe a year late, but relegation looks inevitable for the Asturians this time round. They now trail Leganes by six points with four matches left, although they do own the tiebreak (Leganes is the only club they’ve defeated on the road this season). They have some injury concerns: Canella at LB and Alvarez at left mid in their 4-3-3 may be out.
Duje Cop (9 goals) and Carlos Carmona (6) are their main goal scorers; Moi Gomez has 2 goals and 4 assists for them. Ex-Villarreal keeper Diego Mariño and current loanee Akram Afif have not played much.
Villarreal: The big problem for us is centerback: Mateo Musacchio is suspended after picking up his fifth yellow card for time-wasting (I guess) against Atleti, and Victor Ruiz is still injured. So Daniele Bonera and Alvaro Gonzalez will be the starters. Jaume Costa is suspended, too, but José Angel might well have started for him anyway. Soldado and Bakambu figure to start up front.
When we played in Gijon in December Alexandre Pato scored a goal and was the man of the match (Sansone and Jona dos Santos were the other scorers in our 3-1 win). Sporting really can’t play for anything except a win themselves, but the more they open up themselves, the more they expose their backline to Villarreal’s through balls and counterattacks. They’re not particularly strong in the air, so will need to look for free kicks and quick counters themselves to create a lot of threat, I’d think.
Prediction: It feels dangerous to predict a shutout with our makeshift back line, so I won’t. I do have a feeling we might win 3-1. That would be a nice result as we prepare for the Barca match the following weekend.