Villarreal v Real Sociedad – Estadio de la Cerámica at 19:45 live at Sky Sports

Villarreal boss Javier Calleja insists his side have set the bar to the ‘maximum’ level after they defeated Levante 2-1 last Saturday. A Manu Trigueros penalty and second-half finish from Denis Cheryshev fired the Yellow Submarine to a fourth La Liga triumph from five unbeaten outings.

Top goalscorer Cedric Bakambu might have made a big-money move to China but Villarreal had adjusted well to his absence in the last four fixtures. And with fellow striker Carlos Bacca returning from a one-match suspension this week, the Yellow Submarine should be confident of continuing their good run.

The hosts boast a formidable record when entertaining bottom-half La Liga clubs since 2014/15, winning 27 of 36 such encounters at their Estadio de la Ceramica base. And with a W5-D2-L0 return here when excluding top-six sides this season, Calleja’s charges should be backed to enhance that record on Saturday night.

Real Sociedad’s struggles

Such strong trends make the 2.17 available for Villarreal to overcome a -0.50 Asian Handicap hurdle an appealing prospect this weekend, especially so with visitors Real Sociedad in free-fall. The Basques have fallen to three consecutive defeats and managed a sole success in nine.

La Real have returned W0-D1-L5 from away days at top-six clubs this term and also have major doubts over key central defender Inigo Martinez, as well as being without influential midfielder David Zurutuza.

Eusebio under pressure

Understandably, head coach Eusebio Sacristan is now feeling the heat from the Sociedad supporters. After qualifying for the Europa League, expectations were high in San Sebastian but the side have failed to ignite and the former Barcelona B boss could be relieved of his duties should Saturday’s game go wrong.

A small squad has proven hazardous and although on the surface La Real are an aesthetically pleasing team, playing with a youthful naivety while backed by a coach with the utmost, steadfast confidence in them, they’ve gone stagnant and seem to be lacking leadership and inspiration.

Sociedad lack a secondary plan and whilst Mikel Oyarzabal and Alvaro Odriozola picked up headlines earlier on in the campaign, the former has since faded. Elsewhere, Geronimo Rulli, their usually trustworthy shot-stopper, has lost confidence, with the club’s defensive record duly taking a plunge.

Right-back Carlos Martinez is often injured, leaving young Andoni Gorosabel to be thrown in at the deep end and Willian Jose lacks competition up top. La Real have fallen into the relegation mix and a trip to Villarreal could bring further heartache on Saturday evening.

Asian Handicap Recommendation: Villarreal -0.50 at 2.190

By @MarkOHaire

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