"That time of the year already?"
After such a heart-stopping spring, we’ll all have been grateful of three months’ rest and relaxation. I know I certainly was, but the new season is almost here and it’s time to dig out the old scarf and Thermos for another hard-fought campaign. At the moment, I’m slightly apprehensive, but I’m sure this Sunday’s contest with La Liga’s Villarreal will blow out the cobwebs with the force of an Alex Ferguson hairdryer. It isn’t likely to be easy – the Yellow Submarine (not to be confused with Swindon Supermarine) completed the 2010-11 season in 4th ahead of Athletico Madrid, Espanyol and our conquerors of last pre-season, Zaragoza.
Roberto has once again been working his European contacts to attract a high-profile Spanish side to the DW for Wigan’s final pre-season friendly, but when you delve a bit deeper, the two teams are more closely related than one may initially think. Not in terms of success, mind, for Latics could only dream of a place in the Champions League play-offs, but in terms of size. Villarreal has never been the most fashionable of clubs, at least not with the Spanish national press, and as such has slipped under the radar to a certain extent. What’s more, the 25,000-capacity Estadio El Madrigal, where the Valencian team play their home games, may draw comparison with a certain multi-purpose sports stadium in south Lancashire. And I’m not talking about the Reebok. Or Prenton Park. But you got the idea, and now I’m being picky.
Thus, you could argue it is fitting for the two teams to share a football field, even if only for a friendly. Villarreal will, however, provide a stern test for a still-rusty Latics, whose squad members will be squabbling for a starting berth against Norwich a week on Saturday. Of course, we mustn’t forget the overriding goal here – a win on Sunday would be fantastic, but getting our Premier League season off to a winning start would be even better.
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