Match Preview – Español vs Real Sociedad
Matchday 23 – Espanyol v Real Sociedad – Match Preview
Monday 8th February 2016
Two weeks ago Chinese model car maker Rastar Group completed its takeover of debt-laden Espanyol. The deal will apparently see Rastar invest 50 million euros for a 54% stake. After years of living in the shadow of neighbours Barcelona it is expected that Espanyol are likely to enter the transfer market in a major way, when the summer window opens.
This deal is the latest example of the increasing influence of the Asian market in Spanish football. Earlier this year China’s Wanda Group bought a 20% in Atletico Madrid and Singaporean businessman Peter Lim is also the major shareholder in Valencia. By nature, the Chinese are not renown for their passiveness and I expect the new owners will be attempting to influence Espanyol team/squad selection in the near future.
However the feel good factor generated by the takeover didn’t last very long as Espanyol were thrashed 6-0 by a rampant Real Madrid last Sunday. They lost by the same score in the reverse fixture earlier in the season and the new owners would have hoped for a considerably more positive start to their new venture.
Espanyol appointed Constantin Galca as Head Coach in place of Sergio Gonzalez in December, but he has only won once since taking charge. He won his first game 1-0 against Las Palmas but since Christmas they are on a six-game winless streak which has seen them drop down the table into 17th position.
They have only scored 4 goals during this period but conceded 15. Their overall record this season has been very inconsistent, in the 22 games played so far they have only won 6, drawn 4 and last 12. Total goals scored are only 20 but they have already leaked 41. In the reverse fixture at the Anoeta in September they ran out 2-3 winners with 2 very late strikes.
The closing of the winter transfer window saw no new players added to the Real Sociedad squad as the deal to bring Juanmi in from Southampton never materialised. Apparently this move may still happen in the summer but I hope in the intervening time we give Sanse striker Jon Bautista a chance to see if he can step up to the demands of La Liga action.
The end of the transfer window did see the departure of long serving defender Jon Ansotegi, who has re-joined neighbours Eibar. Ansotegi has been a Real first team player since 2005/6 season and although he has always been limited in his ability, primarily due to his lack of pace, he has proved a reliable and trustworthy player who was always very proud to wear our shirt. His attitude, loyalty and commitment has always been exemplary and he is an absolute credit to his profession.
I hope he prospers at a Eibar and earns a contract to prolong his La Liga career, although there are rumours of a move to the MLS at the end of this season. Since making his debut for us during the 2005/6 season he appeared in 209 league fixtures, scoring 11 goals. He had previously played 79 times for Sanse who he joined in 2003. He has not appeared in any first team league fixtures this season.
In further transfer news we have also allowed Alain Oyarzun to join Mirandes of the Segunda Division, on loan until June. Although promoted to the Real first team squad this season Alain never actually featured on the pitch and this move will allow him much needed game time.
Finally we have agreed to allow misfit striker Albert Finnbogason to end his loan deal with Greek club Olympiakos and join Augsburg in the Bundesliga. Olympiakos had lost confidence in Finnbo as they discovered that his complete absence of ability meant he was undeserving of a regular first team place. The player himself wanted more game time to strengthen his chances of selection for his country Iceland during the forthcoming European Championships. I hope the coaches at Augsburg can get more out of him than either Olympiakos or we managed!! Good luck with that guys!!
Real will be relatively confident after their improved performance and subsequent 2-1 win against Real Betis last week, but they are yet to win away from home under the management of Eusebio Sacristan after 5 attempts. These 5 games have only resulted in 2 points from the 15 on offer, which is a poor return that needs to show improvement.
The truth about last week is that we played well in the first period, managing to get to a 2-0 half time lead. However we were generally poor in the second half when Betis showed more determination, and overall we were a bit fortunate to get all 3 points. We need to play well for the entire match, especially when we are away from home, to have a realistic chance of gaining any points. Defeat will again leave us too close to the final three positions and we need to put a run of games together and show some consistency, if we are going to climb the table.
Eusebio has announced the following squad for this match:
Rulli, Olazabal, Zaldua, Mikel, Diego Reyes, Iñigo, Héctor, Yuri, De la Bella, Markel Bergara, lllarra, Pardo, Xabi Prieto, Bruma, Granero, Oyarzabal, Vela and Jonathas.
This squad looks slightly unbalanced to me as it contains 3 left backs. As has been usual recently there are few attacking options on the bench, should either Vela or Jonathas get injured.
Rather bizarrely, with their new owners in mind, this match coincides with the date of Chinese New Year which may put a different slant on it. I sincerely hope the New Year starts on a really disappointing note for Espanyol.
Bookmakers Bet 365 offer the following odds for this match:
Espanyol to win 17/10, Draw 21/10 and Real Sociedad to win 9/5.