Match Preview – Real Sociedad vs Las Palmas

Matchday 30 Real Sociedad v Las Palmas – Match Preview

Saturday 19th March 2016

Real Sociedad are currently in a poor run of form which is in stark contrast to the string of results that ended in Eusebio winning the manager of the month award in February. They have not recorded a win in any of their last 4 matches, drawing 2 and losing 2.

This sequence of results equals Eusebio’s worst run since he took over as head coach in November, and looks like putting an end to any remaining hopes of European qualification.  However more positively La Reala have not been beaten at home since just before Christmas when they fell 0-2 to Villarreal.  Since then their home record is 3 wins and 3 draws, they have scored in all 6 matches.

Real Sociedad are traditionally strong against Las Palmas in home fixtures.  The Txuri-urdin have played host to the Canary Islanders a total of 31 times in the league, with a record of 24 victories, 6 draws and one defeat.  The single Las Palmas victory came in way back in 1967 when they won 0-1.

Eusebio has named the following squad for this match:

Rulli, Olazabal, Carlos Martínez, Aritz Elustondo, Mikel, Diego Reyes, Iñigo, Yuri, Héctor, Markel, Pardo, Illarra, Granero, Zurutuza, Xabi Prieto, Oyarzabal, Vela and Jonathas.

David Zurutuza, Esteban Granero and Carlos Martinez return to the squad following injury. Zaldua, Raul Navas, Canales, Agirretxe, De la Bella and Bruma are all excluded due to injury or illness.

Las Palmas currently lie in 15th position with 30 points from 29 games, scoring 31 times and conceding 42 goals.  Their overall away record this season is 9 defeats, 3 draws and just 2 victories, but it is notable that they have only failed to score 4 times in the 15 matches played.

Considering their poor travelling record they have rather surprisingly won their last two away games, both 0-1, against Villarreal and Eibar.  However these are the only away matches that they got all 3 points in the league this season and they have never won three consecutive away fixtures in the top division.

Defensively Las Palmas can be fragile. They have conceded 16 goals in the first 20 minutes of matches, the second highest rate in La Liga this season.  Only Espanyol with 19 goals conceded have a worse record.

Las Palmas have also only scored twice in the first 20 minutes in league fixtures and so Real would be well advised to start fast on Saturday and keep things tight defensively for as long as possible.  But it should be remembered that we have played Las Palmas 3 times this season, once in the league and twice in the Copa del Rey, and we are yet to beat them.

After the disappointing result last weekend, Real midfield player Ruben Pardo was interviewed on Tuesday about the defeat at Celta Vigo. He said: “Celta started the game well and knew exactly what they were doing. But we weren’t very attentive during the first 25 minutes; it was only in the second half that we saw the Real Sociedad that all of us wanted to see.»

This is not the first time this season a Real player has made an admission that the attitude of the team was wrong.  The fact remains that some members of the team often appear unmotivated and the team completely lack a leader on the pitch to galvanise the players into action.  This is especially important at the beginning of each half, when we seem to lose concentration and become vulnerable defensively, conceding goals far too easily.

Commenting on the season so far Pardo also said: “In some games we have looked more comfortable and that has usually been against teams who pressure us less and have let us play.»   No shit!!

It is hardly surprising that we feel more comfortable against teams that don’t press us, any team would.  But this statement shows a startlingly casual attitude in the approach of some players.  Can you imagine what would happen to an Atletico Madrid player if he was heard saying this?

Overall I think the squad lack drive and ambition, they seem to be prepared to accept playing badly and just subsequently shrug it of saying «we had a bad day.»   In my opinion this is just not good enough but would appear to have been accepted without comment by the club management for several seasons.

David Moyes commented upon his arrival at the club in November 2014 that he was surprised at the physical condition of the players.  The clear implication being they were nowhere near fit enough.  But the question that needs to be asked is why would a professional footballer not be fit enough?

Nobody has questioned the accuracy of Moyes’s assessment of this matter, but no reason has ever been identified to offer an explanation.  Poor conditioning three months into a season is obviously a negative reflection on the work of previous head coach Jagoba Arrasate, but ultimately the players themselves must shoulder some responsibility for their own physical condition.

Players should know what is required of them.  If they are not prepared to do the work to ensure they are fully ready for a demanding season, then I would suggest maybe they are in the wrong job.  It is not acceptable for players to say the coach did not push them enough, they should be sufficiently motivated to want to push themselves.   We appear to have too many players who are content to play within their own comfort zone and are not prepared to stretch themselves.

The ability to press opposing players into mistakes through effort and hard work is a skill available to all 10 pitch based players.  It should be an entry level requirement to actually being in the first team squad.  If players are not prepared to maintain a fitness level to permit them play an effective pressing game, then how can they realistically expect to play at the top level?

The seemingly blasé attitude of some senior players is completely incompatible with a club that wants to compete at the highest  level.  Some of our players need to show a substantially more professional attitude to their fitness levels and a greater commitment and more consistent and motivated approach during matches.

We need more players with a Diego Rivas type attitude.  Diego was never the most technically competent player, but he could never be accused of not giving 100% for the team.  He led by example and always competed at the maximum level he could attain, whenever he was selected.

Since the departure of Rivas and Mikel Aranburu, we have had no natural leader to fulfil the role as captain, to encourage his team mates when things get difficult.  Inigo’s commitment cannot be questioned but far too many other senior players have an inconsistent approach, that does the team no favours.

Being captain requires much more than being photographed before kick off with the match officials and the mascots, which seems to be the limits of Xabi Prieto’s understanding of the role.  He should be relieved of his position as team captain.

In other news Mikel Oyarzabal has been called up for international duty with Spain’s Under-19s side who will be competing in Group 1 with England, Georgia and Greece in the European Championship Elite Round.  The matches will be played from 24th – 29th March in Huelva.  The group winner will qualify for the main tournament to be held in Germany between 11th – 24th July.

Finally Carlos Vela accepted a €100,000 fine imposed by the club for his missed training incident last week.  The club will deduct the money from the payment he is due at the end if June.

Bookmakers Bet 365 offer the following odds for this match:

Real Sociedad to win 4/6, Draw 5/2, and Las Palmas to win 5/1.

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