Villarreal are in the Basque Country to take on Los Leones, the Athletic Club de Bilbao squad coached by Marcelino. They, like Villarreal, are off to a middling start in the league, mostly because while they have only lost once, they haven’t been able to win as much as draw. And a lot of their problem comes down to scoring goals—they have only 7 in 9 matches, Villarreal have only 9 in the league themselves, of course.
With Marcelino, you know what you will get. He lines his team up in a 4-4-2, and since the Bilbao side don’t get into the transfer market much because of their commitment to bringing up their own players, most of the names on the teamsheet will look familiar. One that might not is Dani Vivian—he’s a young, 22 year-old central defender who played for their B team for several years and was loaned to Mirandés last term.
Iker Muniain is their main creator, Iñaki Williams their main goal threat, and Unai Simon their young keeper. Expect this to be a tight game as always—the home side offering threats in the air, especially off set pieces, and physical on defense, and Muniain the threat with through-balls or pinpoint passes in the area. They haven’t played since October 1st, so they should be well rested, if not a bit rusty.
Villarreal of course are fresh off a big win in midweek in Switzerland, though I think we all agree the scoreline was a bit flattering! Good news for Submarine fans is that Gerard Moreno appears to be healthy and has scored in his last two matches.
All-time records: Villarreal haven’t done badly at San Mamés, with a record in league matches of 6 wins, 7 draws, 8 losses; last year this fixture ended 1-1, Gerard and Alex Berenguer as the goal-scorers. This fixture has usually been low-scoring and tight; exceptions were 2018 (Villarreal won 3-0, the first goal being Pablo Fornals’s lob over Simón) and 2015 (4-0 in favor of the home side; this was the last match of the season).
And so, today’s lineups:
Athletic Club: Simón; Lekue, Vivian, Iñigo Martinez, Balenziaga; Berenguer, Dani García, Vencedor, Muniain; Raul García, Iñaki Williams
(I don’t have their sub list)
Villarreal: (4-3-3) Rulli; Foyth, Albiol, Pau, Estupiñan, Capoue, Coquelin, Parejo, Danjuma, Gerard, Yeremy.
Subs: Asenjo; Mario, Paco, Iborra, Samu, Dani Raba, Alberto Moreno, Ruben Peña, Mandi, Moi, Pedraza, Serge Aurier (number 25)
We could use three points today......