Villarreal are enduring a tough stretch at the moment. February was poor but maybe turning the calendar will help. At any rate, Girona visit the Ceramica for the early kickoff on Saturday.
Going into the season many observers, me included, thought Girona would do OK in their first Primera season, and they have, but not for the reasons we thought. Their linkup with Manchester City brought loanees who were expected to play a key part, but really only Pablo Maffeo has made an impact. Instead, it’s been their owned players who have starred.
Girona bought Bernardo Espinosa (ex-Sevilla, Sporting Gijon and Racing Santander) from Middlesbrough, who has been a regular in the middle of Girona’s three man backline, and their other purchase from Middlesbrough, Uruguayan striker Cristian Stuani, has notched 13 goals, his most ever in the Primera. Their other scoring star is Cristian Portu, whom the Catalan side picked up on a free from Albacete in summer 2016.
Pablo Machin is in his fourth season at Girona. He sets his team out either in a 3-4-2-1 with Stuani at the top flanked by Borja Garcia and Portu, or a 3-5-2 with Portu and Stuani as the strikers. Either way, there are a lot of bodies to have to play through in midfield. When the teams met at the Montilivi in October, Cedric Bakambu’s speed led to two goals within 20 minutes (assists by Trigueros and Fornals). Without him, and with Girona playing more defensively away from home, Villarreal is going to have to figure out how to get the ball to our strikers in strong positions.
Villarreal haven’t scored multiple goals in a match since the end of January. While a lot of attention has been focused on our inability to post clean sheets, we haven’t allowed more than one goal in our last four matches. If we could simply score two each time, we could win most of the time. Right?
Here is the team call (one player will drop off from the 19 cited here):
Keepers: Asenjo and Barbosa.
Defenders: Gaspar, Álvaro, Victor Ruiz, Jaume Costa, Rukavina, Bonera
Midfielders: Fornals, Castillejo, Trigueros, Rodri, Javi Fuego, Soriano, Raba, Manu Morlanes (#40).
Strikers: Bacca, Ünal, Roger Martínez
I assume Cheryshev and Adrián Marín were dropped for tactical reasons; the only players featured on the injury report are Sansone, Bruno and Andrés.
All-time record: This is only Girona’s second visit to the Yellow Submarine’s home. We won 4-1 in May 2013, a key win in our promotion season. Mario GAspar, Jaume Costa and Manu Trigueros all played in that match. As far as I can tell, the only Girona player who appeared then and is still on their roster is Eloi Amagat.
Prediction: This has 1-1 written all over it, I am sorry to say. So I’ll go for 2-0 to Villarreal. Why not? ENDAVANT!!!