Real Sociedad to lose ground on top four chasers
Real Sociedad will be looking to gatecrash the runners and riders in the top four places of La Liga when they entertain a sluggish Villarreal outfit at the Anoeta Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The hosts can at least temporarily leapfrog Atlético Madrid (who play in the evening) with any kind of positive result, but Imanol Alguacil's men need to shake off their own slump in order to keep pace. Read our preview here:
Los Txuri-Urdin have only won one of their last six in the league, though they did come through a potential banana skin away at Zamora, winning 3-0 on Wednesday night. Only Carlos Fernández and Nacho Monreal are certain to be out, but they will sweating on the game-readiness of David Silva and Mikel Merino to bolster the midfield triumvirate. Elsewhere, centre back pairing Aritz Elustondo and Robin Le Normand haven't seen their earlt season performances drop off too much, and the latter in particular is an integral part of the side, especially adept aerially in both boxes.
Etienne the saint
The Yellow Submarines' own recent sequence makes for similarly grim reading, but they have at least qualified for the knockout phase of the UEFA Champions League for the third time in their history, with a below-par Juventus awaiting them in the last 16. Domestically however, the combined 15-1 thrashings of lower tier Spanish sides in the Copa del Rey cannot mask that they are well off the pace in the bread and butter; indeed, at the time of writing, they are only six points above the drop zone after nearly half the campaign has elapsed. Unai Emery might be able to call upon his whole squad for their trip to Basque Country, with Dutch inside forward Arnaut Danjuma's name on the teamsheet being of paramount importance. Behind him, Etienne Capoue keeps things ticking over nicely, and the shapes are almost certain to match. That should bring to the fore his varied skillset, and the battle in the middle third will be especially intriguing.
Basque-ing in the warmth
Two sides with similar ambitions and struggles ought to make the clash a very interesting one for the neutral viewer. On paper, there's little to split them, despite the disparity in the table. bet365 have surprisingly odds of 3.30 for a draw, however.