Paul Murray’s Match Preview / Las Palmas – Real Sociedad


Matchday 11 – Match Preview – Friday 6th November 2015

Paul Murray’s Match Preview / Las Palmas – Real Sociedad

Real’s first Friday match of this disappointing season see them travel to the Canary Islands for another crucial fixture against one of the few teams with less points than them.  Newly promoted Las Palmas have also started poorly and are currently lying in 19th position, with 6 points from 10 games.  They have already sacked Paco Herrera, the manager who bought them up from the Segunda Division,  replacing him on 19th October with Quique Setien.

Las Palmas have collected 5 points from 5 home fixtures and appear to be showing a small improvement under their new manager.  However Real’s away form has unexpectedly improved considerably this season, already chalking up two substantial away victories at Granada 0-3 and more recently at Levante 0-4.

David Zurutuza will be missing from the travelling squad due to the injury he picked up last weekend.  He is likely to be absent for at least a month which is a big blow to the creative aspect of our team. Zuru has been very influential in the last few matches since being restored to the team.  Striker Imanol Agirretxe in particular will miss his creative play and pinpoint crossing.  I thought that the dynamic of the Celta match changed in the visitors favour after Zuru was injured early in the second half.  His departure coincided with Celta exerting more control in midfield, and when Moyes decided to replace him with the more attacking minded Bruma, he allowed Celta to exploit our lack of midfield balance.

Also missing from the squad to travel to Las Palmas are both first choice full backs De La Bella and Joseba Zaldua.   Yuri is likely to continue at left back after his strong performance last weekend with Zaldua being replaced by Carlos Martinez, who due to injury is yet to feature this season.  Aritz Elustondo has not been included in the players who have travelled.  Diego Reyes will probably replace Mikel in the centre of the defence which conceded 3 goal last week and Moyes has a choice of Bruma, Chory, Granero, Canales or Pardo to replace Zurutuza.  For me the obvious replacement would be Sergio Canales, as he is the most similar in playing style to Zuru, however he appears to be out of favour with Moyes who is more likely to select Ruben Pardo.

The selection in midfield is made more complicated but the fact that Asier Illarramendi is also struggling for fitness.  He has travelled but the decision to play him will be left as late as possible to give him the greatest chance to recover.  Esteban Granero returns to the squad after his injury layoff and Mikel Oyarzabal has again been included within the 21 players taken, providing greater cover for the midfield players who are either injured or not fully fit.

Speculation concerning the future of David Moyes predictably increased again following last weekend’s home defeat.  However Aston Villa, the Premier League club he was being linked with, appointed Remi Garde this week as their new manager, and so that escape route is no longer available for the Scot.  Moyes himself has consistently denied any interest in moving from his current position and has clearly and regularly stated that he intends to see out the full term of his contract which expires in June 2016.  He insists he is “not worried” about losing his job, despite Real Sociedad’s failure to win at home this season.  In my opinion he bloody well should be worried.  His inconsistent selection policy has not helped the team and the impression remains that even with every player fit and available he still does not know what is best team is after 1 year in charge.

Moyes has also been reported to have a difficult relationship with several of his star players, Vela included.  Support at boardroom level must also be evaporating after he has only delivered two wins from Real’s opening 10 fixtures.  However this week, in the media, Moyes has received the support of players Carlos Vela and Bruma. Both have gone on record as saying that Moyes has not lost the dressing room.

Vela told Spanish newspaper AS:  “I’ve never gone against any manager, nor have I talked badly about any coach. I’ve always thrown myself at any challenge handed to me and tried to understand and learn.  I hope things turn around because when he’s calm it means the team is doing well. Nobody thought that we’d be in this position and it’s natural that people are asking questions, but between us, the players, there’s no problem.  He [Moyes] hasn’t lost the dressing room or anything like that, and we’re all trying move the club upwards, and we can only do that if we’re together. There’s no anxiety in the squad, but we’re conscious that we’re not in the zone where we want to be, we’re focusing on how to get out of this run and on working hard, that’s all we talk about in the team.”

This sounds a lot like the dreaded vote of confidence which is often followed by the manager being given the sack if results don’t rapidly improve.  Vela’s own form has been distinctly mediocre so far this season and it sounds to me that he is being supportive of his manager in the media to deflect any blame being attributed to him personally.  I believe that Vela must shoulder responsibility for his poor physical condition and the fact that he allowed himself to  become distracted by offers or more likely rumours of offers from various MLS clubs to play for them after the January transfer window opens.

I thought Vela’s performance in the Celta Vigo match was very selfish.  On numerous occasions he held the ball for far too long, ignoring the opportunity to release it to team mates in better attacking positions.  He also risked alienating the referee by theatrically throwing himself to the ground after the slightest physical contact.  I have watched him play for years and although he is one of the most fouled players in La Liga he has always been much more physically robust in the past.  This attention seeking behaviour does him no credit and he needs to ‘man up’ now!

The plain and inescapable fact is that we cannot afford to lose this match.  Let’s hope for a repeat of the desire and resilience the team showed against Granada and Levante.  Moyes must motivate his players and find a repeat of the strong away performances that have been one of the few positive but unexpected features of this season.

Bet 365 offer the following odds for this match: Las Palmas 13/8, Real Sociedad 7/4 and Draw 21

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