Paul Murray´s Match Preview – Real Sociedad vs Celta

Matchday 10 – Match preview – Saturday 31st October 2015

Real Sociedad vs Celta de Vigo

After their great result (0-4 away victory at Levante) last weekend, Real host high flying Celta de Vigo, who currently lie in 4th position in the table. The Galician team have already collected 18 points from 9 games after their surprisingly positive start to the season. So far they have only been beaten once, the 1-3 loss against Real Madrid last weekend. Their impressive away form includes victories at Levante, Villarreal and Sevilla and they have scored in every away fixture they have played so far.

However their record at the Anoeta has been poor in recent seasons. The last time they left San Sebastián with all the points was the 0-2 victory in September 1999. Since then Celta have visited us 9 times in La Liga, suffering 4 defeats, with 5 matches ending all square.

They will arrive tomorrow with a squad free of injury but have central defender Gustavo Cabral suspended after his dismissal last week. As a team Celta certainly carry a substantial goal threat with the impressive Nolito (La Liga September player of the month) and Iago Aspas backed up by Jon Guidetti. They have scored 18 league goals so far (an impressive average of 2 per game) but conceded 11, keeping a clean sheet on only 2 occasions (both home fixtures against Rayo and Getafe).

La Real in stark contrast are yet to win a home fixture this season, but our performances have not been as poor as the results suggest and so there is a realistic expectation that this deficiency could be put right tomorrow.

Real will welcome Diego Reyes and Jonathas back from suspension. Reyes is likely to replace Mikel Gonzalez in the centre of defence with Jonathas back on the bench where the continued and somewhat unexpected good form of Imanol Agirretxe has firmly placed him. Esteban Granero remains on the injury list and there are some slight doubts concerning the fitness of Vela, Agirretxe and De la Bella.

Our victory last weekend should place the squad in a confident mood but I would caution that we should not get too carried away with the 4 goals and 3 points. The Levante match needs to be viewed in the context that our opponents were really poor throughout. The 2 goals scored by Carlos Vela last week should help improve his confidence and a repeat of the 2013 home fixture against Celta, an exciting 4-3 home victory in which the Mexican scored all 4 of our goals would be very welcome.

The Levante match also featured very strong performances from both Xabi Prieto and David Zurutuza. Neither have played regularly this season either due to injury or lack of form but both players made important contributions to the change of style in which we got the ball forward more quickly and actual shot on target. This positive attitude was also continued by substitute Chory Castro who made a very positive contribution in the short time he played.

As well as the much needed 3 points, two notable landmarks emerged from the Levante match. Firstly the fact that we started the match with 9 homegrown players is a glowing testament to our Cantera policy which will serve us well in the coming years. Secondly the match featured the debut of 18 year old Mikel Oyarzabal. Mikel only played for the final 5 minutes, and in reality he hardly featured, but this match marks his official introduction to La Liga, which history will record as an important date in the history of our club. Much is expected from this young man who is likely to play an increasingly large part in shaping the future of the club. Mikel is the first of the young players to make the breakthrough, but I expect he will soon be followed by others, notably Tanis Marcellan and Igor Zubeldia. I look forward to watching these young men develop and represent our club for years to come.

Oyarzabal’s promotion to the first team squad will I believe create an ongoing problem for Rubén Pardo. Both players will compete for the same position and I believe that Moyes may prefer to develop Oyarzabal, which will call Pardo’s long term future into doubt. If this is the case, I believe he will have no one to blame but himself. He is just not ambitious enough with the ball, preferring to retain possession instead of creating chances with forward passes. This pedestrian style has contributed to making us a very static and predictable team, but Moyes must also take responsibility for this as I doubt that Rubén Pardo has deliberately disobeyed his pre-match instructions. However it won’t have missed Moyes’s attention that neither of the away victories at Granada 0-3 and Levante 0-4 featured Pardo.

Speculation also continued this week over the future of head coach David Moyes, especially as Aston Villa did sack their manager Tim Sherwood, as was widely predicted. However the existing (top heavy) management structure in place at Villa is unlikely to appeal much to Moyes who would be unlikely to want to work under such constraints. The victory last week has eased the local pressure on Moyes and a home victory tomorrow will again strengthen his position.

Negotiations for the renewal of Iñigo Martinez’s contract appear to have got off to a poor start this week after he rejected the initial offer as insufficient in terms of renumeration. Iñigo has often confirmed that his intention is to remain at the club and the re-signing of his best friend Illarra should help reinforce this. But Iñigo believes that he should be placed at the same salary level as the top earning players at the club and I fully agree that this is an appropriate expectation for him.

I hope that the club will not alienate Iñigo by persisting in what appears to be their current unreasonable stance and will amend their offer to something that properly recognises his importance and commitment to us. The close season signing for the Sanse squad of left footed and highly rated Serbian central defender Srdjan Babic could be a reason for the club’s apparent casual approach to the Iñigo contractural negotiations which obviously have a long way to run.

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