In the last few years, a trend has been originated in the Spanish teams that are promoted to First Division. They have usually played in a very attractive way to stand out in the Second Division, and they continue trying to play in the same way against their new rivals, normally with good results. This year's best example of this trend are the guys from Villarreal, which have surprised everyone in Spain and are enjoying a more than deserved fourth position in La Liga.
Almería tried to do the exact same thing. Disposed in a 4-2-3-1 system full of offensive players, their idea was to try to have the ball and dominate the matches, not just to avoid risks but to create chances of scoring. This plan was working somehow, since they managed to score ten goals in the five first games, but their defense and, more importantly, their ability of remaining focused in the last minutes of the matches were not at the same level. If those games had ended at minute 80, Almería would have had 12 out of 15 points. With full matches, they finished with only 3 out of 15 points. Terrible.
However, Almería's coach Francisco Martínez did not seem to be very worried. He trusted his players and the system, and hoped the good results would arrive, but things were even worse in the next five games. Almería lost all of them, and they were able to score only one goal. He was about to be dismissed by the team's manager, but, instead, he was given a last opportunity.
The match against Valencia supposed a turning point for Almería. Their usual 4-2-3-1 was changed to a 5-4-1 where the wing defenders, Nelson and Dubarbier, are free to incorporate in offensive tasks. The midfielders Azeez and Tébar try to push their team forward, in order to press against the rival's defensive line when they have the ball. Three central defenders step in front of the legendary goalkeeper Esteban, a 38-year-old who is showing the same levels of emotion that in his first years in Oviedo.
Four men share most of Almería's offensive talent, although I believe only three of them will play this Saturday. Two wingers, Suso and Aleix Vidal, whose dribbling abilities are outstanding, and two strikers, Soriano and Rodri, with completely supplementary conditions.
With all due respect for Almería, if we perform at our expected level, we should win the match. However, we should not hope an easy game next Saturday. They will try to press Pepe and Ramos with two or three men and, once we break this first pressure, we will find two lines of men defending in a very thin strip. It will be difficult to find space between these lines, and the association between Modric (or Isco, perhaps) and Benzema will be essential to open tracks for Ronaldo and Bale. On the other hand, we should be careful with Suso and Vidal, who will try to put Carvajal and Arbeloa in real trouble in the wings and cross the ball for Rodri or Soriano in the box.