Jornada 34 (so far) has been mostly kind to the teams desperately needing three points, with Levante, Valladolid and Huesca all winning. Of course, whether that really matters much to Villarreal depends on how their visit to Anoeta turns out. If the Submarine can come back with another win, then you’d have to think survival would be almost assured. A draw would be better than nothing, while a loss tightens things back up again.
Real Sociedad have had a rather quiet season, almost completely uneventful on the pitch except for the 2-0 victory at the Bernabeu in early January. They are midtable with a 10-11-12 record and a goal difference of -2; 39 goals scored (tied for 12th), 41 allowed (8th).
They’re 5-6-5 at home and 5-5-7 away, so it’s not as if it really matters where they play...they’re...okay. They have had some big sales the last couple of years and have reinvested carefully; Mikel Merino came from Newcastle this summer—but they have been net sellers for awhile now.
La Real have a long injury list for this match, and that could be important. Zurutuza and Januzaj are out; a host of players, including Illarremendi in midfield and Diego Llorente and Theo Hernandez in the back line, are doubtful. They will probably go with a 4-3-3, and their big goal scorers are Willian José and Mikel Oyarzabal, with 10 and 12 goals, respectively.
Villarreal are coming into this match with some confidence, one hopes, after two league wins in a row. In fact, it’s hard to realize with all the Europa League games in the middle, but Villarreal are 4-1-2 in their last seven league games going into this one. Bruno, Miguelón and Bonera are out, Sergio Asenjo is doubtful, as is Manu Morlanes. But there are no suspensions to worry about this time.
If you can remember way back to the start of the season, we played La Real in our first match: Gerard Moreno scored early, but Funes Mori’s poor backpass was picked off by WIllian who equalized, and the in the second half Alvaro misjudged a high ball and Juanmi stole in and scored. Looking back at the recap and comments from that game, we were already concerned about concentration and the lack of spending in the back compared to the attack.
All-time record: We’ve had pretty good success against La Real: 7-5-4 at home and 7-5-3 away (Primera only), 15-13-10 total if you throw in the Copa. We’ve won three of five at the Anoeta since Sociedad returned to the Primera in 2013.
Prediction: I expect Villarreal to score twice. I’ll go for a 2-1 away win, then, but a 2-2 draw would not be the end of the world. As always, though, Villarreal need to be concerned with managing the game late; 40% of the home team’s goals have come in the last half-hour of matches (of course, 56% of Villarreal’s have).
Let’s go, Yellow Submarine!