Match Preview – Real Sociedad vs Granada

Matchday 24 – Real Sociedad v Granada – Match Preview

Sunday 14th February 2016

Real Sociedad moved six points clear of the relegation zone following the unexpected but comprehensive 0-5 victory on Monday night in Barcelona against Espanyol.  La Reala will now set their sights to top half finish, which looks within their capability as they have lost only one game of six played in 2016.

They will be confident of their chances against struggling Granada and if successful they will record three consecutive league victories, climbing the table into a solid mid table position. Eusebio Sacristan’s men currently occupy 11th place in the standings with 27 points, three short of Malaga who are currently in tenth position.

Real will be attempting to prolong their good record at home against Granada in the league when the teams face each other at noon tomorrow at Anoeta. History records the two clubs have crossed paths 21 times in San Sebastián, with a balance of 13 home wins, 6 draws and 2 defeats. The home team have lost just one of their last seven league games against Granada (W2 D4 L1) – that was a 0 -3 home defeat in the corresponding fixture last season. The match played in Granada during September saw Real Sociedad triumph 0-3 with a hat-trick from the currently injured Imanol Agirretxe.

Brazilian striker Jonathas has begun to show some form and although his overall statistics are still disappointing, scoring five goals in 18 appearances, his overall influence is finally increasing.  Carlos Vela has also shown signs that he is emerging from his period of hibernation and with the increasing inclusion of the exciting 18 year old Mikel Oyarzabal, La Reala are beginning to look like offering exciting attacking possibilities.

In contrast Granada are going through a difficult period and the team are already firmly involved in a battle against relegation. Currently occupying 19th place with a meagre 20 points from 23 games, Granada are three points clear of the rock-bottom Levante and two behind Espanyol, who are fading fast and down to 17th.  The Andalusian team have kept a clean sheet only once this season and have conceded 2 or more goals in 13 of the 23 games played.  It does not look promising for them.

Granada’s most recent results give little hope and reason for their fans to feel optimistic. Jose Ramon Sandoval’s men have been beaten in eight of their last 10 matches in all competitions, winning the other two. They started 2016 with a 2-1 triumph over Sevilla, but followed this with three defeats from the subsequent four games, before beating Getafe 3-2 in late January.  However they are winless in their last four away games, conceding 14 goals, scoring only twice.

Youseff El Arabi, their 29-year-old Morocco forward, has scored six goals in 22 La Liga appearances,  but Granada signed former Levante striker David Barral during the January transfer window and he may be preferred to the Moroccan tomorrow.

Granada Head Coach Sandoval has a few selection concerns ahead of the trip to San Sebastian. Miguel Lopes is unavailable for the visitors, as the right back is suspended, and Salva Ruiz has an injured ankle.

Eusebio has announced the following squad for this match:

Rulli, Olazabal, Zaldua, Elustondo, Mikel, Diego Reyes, Iñigo, Héctor, De la Bella, Yuri, Markel, Rubén Pardo, Xabi Prieto, Illarra, Oyarzabal, Bruma, Vela and Jonathas.

Zurutuza, Raul Navas, Canales, Agirretxe and Carlos Martinez are still injured and fit again Aritz Elustondo is restored to the squad replacing Esteban Granero.

After such a convincing victory on Monday at Espanyol I can see no reason to change the starting line up and so expect Diego Reyes to continue in the defensive midfield position.  Inigo has been ill this week and it remains questionable whether he will be well enough to start.

The deployment of Ruben Pardo in a more advanced position, as I had been advocating for the last few months, has turned him from a bit part player into the playmaker we all hoped he would become.  Now he increasingly exerts a critical influenced on matches and his fine performance against Espanyol resulted in three goal assists.  This is exactly what Real Sociedad has been missing and credit should go to Eusebio for making this tactical alteration.

In other news this week the club have rewarded Mikel Oyarzabal by extending his existing contract, that still had two years to run.  This move recognises his emergence into the first team and the rapid progression he has made. His new contract will last until June 2021 and increases his buyout clause to €40 million.  Other contract negotiations still to be finalised include Inigo Martinez.  He is a vital player for us and I would encourage the club to resolve his contractural situation as soon as possible.

Bookmakers Bet 365 offer the following odds for this match:

Real Sociedad to win 8/13, Draw 3/1 and Granada to win 9/2.

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