First versus third. We’re four points behind Real Sociedad, so we can’t catch them on Sunday but if we can get a win we will be in wonderful shape in the league. After a draw last week in the league and a heavily rotated draw on Thursday in Europa, Villarreal haven’t lost a match in two months.
As the matches begin to pile up, this one may boil down to who has the most energy late in the match, and this plays directly to the benefit of Villarreal.
David Silva, probably the biggest name on Real Sociedad, is out injured with a hamstring injury. Here’s a quiet little secret that only folks who pay close attention to La Liga know, though... he might not even be their best player. Mikel Oyazarzabal is averaging 0.8 xG + xA per 90 minutes so far this year, which has contributed to nine goal contributions so far (including four goals from the penalty spot). He’s incredibly dangerous and will be so even without Silva on the pitch.
Sociedad is not a very deep team. Between the league and European play, they already have four players over 1000 minutes, and three more over 900. By comparison, Villarreal has no one over 1000 and only two over 900, including Asenjo in goal. Elustando and Le Normand in the back, and Mikel Moreno in midfield, are virtually ever present. What happens if they grow tired late in the match?
Some of the regulars got minutes from Unai’s subs on Thursday, but in general we started a very heavily rotated side on Thursday. That said, we should be a bit fresher than La Real on Sunday. I’m hoping we get Paco back for this one, so here’s the lineup I’m expecting:
Call me crazy, but I have a really really good feeling about this match (that may not be a good thing): 3-1 Villarreal.