Paul Murray´s Match Preview / Real Sociedad – Valencia

Matchday 19 – Real Sociedad v Valencia  – Match Preview

Sunday 10th January 2016

This match marks the halfway point of what has been a hugely disappointing season so far for both of these teams.  Real Sociedad currently lie in 15th position, with a total of 17 points from 18 matches.  They are only 2 points off the relegation places, have long term injuries to key players and have gone five games without a win in all competitions.  La Reala are struggling to keep a clean sheet this season and have failed to do so in their last 8 matches in all competitions.  Realistically this has to change if they are to climb the table.

Visitors Valencia hold 10th place with 23 points from 18 games but are still without a league win under Gary Neville, having picked up just four points from their last six league fixtures.  They started the season with an expectation of qualifying for European competition but they have fallen away following their early elimination from the Champions League.  However they are still involved in the Copa del Rey following their impressive first leg 4-0 midweek triumph against Granada, which should ensure their passage to the quarter finals of that competition.

Both teams have changed their manager in the last 2 months with Real replacing David Moyes with Eusebio Sacristan and Valencia appointing the completely inexperienced Gary Neville to replace Nuno Espírito Santo, who resigned in December.  The choice of Neville was completely unforeseen and represents a substantial risk for Valencia.  He doesn’t speak Spanish and has never worked in Spain before.  Sound familiar?

Neither appointment looks particularly impressive as yet but it is early days for either Sacristan or Neville to make their mark.  Realistically, even though he is a fellow Englishman I couldn’t give a toss whether Neville is successful or not but Sacristan’s future success will directly impact Real Sociedad’s La Liga future. I am unconvinced that he is the right man for the job and was surprised he was given an 18 month contract upon his appointment.

This week Porto sacked manager Julen Lopetegui following what they considered a poor run of results, which actually comprised of 3 games without a win!!   He would seem to me to be an ideal candidate to take the helm at Real although I doubt he will remain available for long.

I believe the major difference between these two teams are that Valencia, with Negedo and Paco Alcacer, offer substantially more goal threat than Real’s undynamic forward duo of Vela and Jonathas. With the home team seemingly unable to maintain a clean sheet, this fact could prove pivotal tomorrow, especially with the continuing absence of top scorer Imanol Agirretxe who place has been totally inadequately filled by Jonathas.

Other news this week has seen the contract extension of defenders Yuri Berchiche and Aritz Elustondo, both have been signed until 2020.  The expected departure of Chory Castro was also confirmed when he joined Malaga after being allowed to leave for no fee.  His contract was due to expire in June and his departure should create space for Hector and Oyarsun to play a greater role in the squad.

Eusebio Sacristan has announced the following squad for this match:

Rulli, Olazabal, Carlos Martínez, Zaldua, Aritz Elustondo, Diego Reyes, Mikel, Iñigo, De la Bella, Yuri, Markel Bergara, Pardo, Xabi Prieto, Héctor, Bruma, Oyarzabal, Vela and Jonathas. Ansotegi and Oyarzun have been omitted for technical reasons with Zurutuza, Agirretxe, Canales, Raul Navas and more worryingly Illarra are not available because of injury.   It is good to see Joseba Zaldua back in the squad but Carlos Martinez may be preferred at right back due to Zaldua’s lack of recent match play.

Bookmakers Bet 365 offer the following odds for this match:

Real to win 6/5, Draw 23/10 and Valencia to win 12/5.

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