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Osasuna—Villarreal PREVIEW

Villarreal v Osasuna - Liga Photo by Maria Jose Segovia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Villarreal are in Pamplona to face Osasuna at El Sadar on Saturday. Villarreal have called up their usual 18 players for this match (no Caceres, Morlanes or Leo Suarez; Bruno, Alberto Moreno and Ramiro Guerra are injured.) Over 350 Villarreal fans are planning to attend to cheer the team on.

Osasuna (the name means ‘strength’, in Basque, basically) have been a regular in the primera from 1980 on, except for a string of six years from 1994-2000, and more recently, from 2014-19, when they spent only one year (2016-17) in the top flight. They were promoted back this year as Segunda champions.

In a lot of ways, Osasuna remind me of the Elche side that won promotion to the Primera in 2012-13 ahead of Villarreal; a strong defense carried them to the Segunda title, and now back in the Primera, survival will largely depend on a strong defense again. Osasuna can score goals, but not very many; five in seven matches so far, giving up only six.

The defensive total is pretty good when you realize they’ve played Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Real Betis, three teams that have scored a lot so far, and gave up 2 to Barca, 2 to Madrid, none to Betis. But on the other hand, they didn’t score against Madrid or Betis, either.

And, Osasuna have not lost at home in three matches—but they haven’t won, either. Their only win was a 1-0 victory at Leganés to start the season.

Their danger man up front is Chimy Avila, who joined them from Huesca, with Roberto Torres one to watch as well (he plays on the right).

Villarreal enter on a high after a 5-1 win over Betis and the news that four of their players were named to the Spanish national squad. Morale is high, though one wonders if some of the players who haven’t seen much playing time yet will start to chafe at their lack of minutes. But being part of a winning squad helps those sort of problems. At any rate, expect Villarreal to look much as they have in recent matches; I suppose the only real selection questions are at right back—Peña or Mario—and up front, where Santi and Gerard figure to start but which of the Moi/Ontiveros/Ekambi/Samu group joins them is a bit unclear (my money would be on the last two).

All-time record: Villarreal is 8-4-2 against Osasuna at home, 4-3-7 away, but keep in mind we haven’t played here in awhile. Our last loss was Garrido’s last league match in charge, a 2-1 loss after we had taken a lead shortly after the hour mark. I do remember that match, and it was truly dire!

Prediction: Osasuna 1-2 Villarreal. I just think we are better at breaking down teams like this now.