Paul Murray´s Preview / Real Sociedad – Deportivo

Matchday 20 – Real Sociedad v Deportivo  – Match Preview

Sunday 16th January 2016

The second half of the season starts with what I would consider a distinctly winnable fixture against the Galicians Deportivo.  The reverse fixture opened this season and ended 0-0.  Real will be hoping to better that result so they can continue to build on the improvement they are beginning to show at home.  La Reala have won 3 of their last 4 home fixtures in La Liga, an upturn in form that coincided with the appointment of Eusebio Sacristan.  I am writing this from the Amara Plaza Hotel in San Sebastián as I am so confident of victory that I have come to watch us put Deportivo to the sword!!

Deportivo currently occupy 9th place gaining a very creditable 27 points from 19 games. They have won 6, drawn 9 and lost only 4 league games so far, scoring 26 and conceding 23 goals.  However they have scored only 1 goal in their last 3 league fixtures and were embarrassingly knocked out of the Copa del Rey midweek by Mirandes from the Segunda Division.  They have not won at Anoeta since February 2007.  In fact Deportivo have won only once in their last 9 matches (in all competitions) and after their unexpectedly great start to the season they have faded badly.

Real Sociedad’s confidence will be boosted by the 3 points they gained last Sunday with their convincing win against a very mediocre Valencia team.  Their second half performance showed a huge improvement in the way they pressed the opposition defenders, forcing mistakes and creating attacking opportunities.  They displayed a high level of commitment and belief which has often been distinctly absent this season.

There was a marked contrast in the performance of Jonathas between the first and second half last week.  He needs to play at the level he attained in the second period if he is to have any chance of retaining his place when Agirretxe is fit again.  His first goal was quite fortunate as Carlos Martinez’s cross evaded the keeper due to a slight deflection from a defender.  The ball fell to the much travelled Brazilian who took full advantage. His second goal was an absolute peach of a header which should boost his confidence considerably.  We all knew that he was a very skilful player but this skill has rarely been in evidence as his fragile temperament has dominated his contribution so far.  Hopefully those days are now behind us.

Eusebio has selected the following squad for this match:

Rulli, Olazabal, Carlos Martínez, Zaldua, Aritz Elustondo, Mikel, Iñigo, De la Bella, Yuri, Markel Bergara, Pardo, Illarra, Xabi Prieto, Héctor, Bruma, Oyarzabal, Vela and Jonathas.  Diego Reyes is replace by the fit again Illarra, an indication of how the on loan Mexican has dropped down the pecking order since Aritz Elustondo replaced him in the central defensive starting line up.

I am hopeful that Mikel Oyarzabal will start this match in place of Carlos Vela.  I believe the youngster offers us a much greater energy level and an unpredictability that unsettles opponents.  His direct style of play is very threatening for defenders who have no idea what he intends to do with the ball.  The primary reason for this is I believe that Oyarzabal has no idea what he is going to do next and plays in an instinctive manner that is great when it works but sometimes frustrating to watch. Consistency will come with greater experience, and he will become a key player for us for many years to come.

Vela is a shadow of the player he has been for the past 3 seasons and no longer should be considered to hold a guaranteed starting place. His apparent continued lack of interest is exacerbated by his obvious poor physical condition which has shown little improvement since the season began.  He returned from the pre season Gold Cup looking like he had won the Cancun Taco eating contest and why he is ever made team captain is a complete mystery to me.  If we can obtain a decent transfer fee from the San Diego Fajitas or the Chicago Burritos (or whoever he wants to join) then we should let him go.

Veteran captain Xabi Prieto seems more suited to being used as an impact substitute these days as his lack of pace inhibits our transitional play.  Pardo looks much better in a more advanced position which would allow Illarra and Markel to continue their defensive midfield partnership.  Bruma is also beginning to add some consistency  to his play but I still think his final ball is often poor due to him playing on the left.  If Oyarzabal starts they could swap sides periodically to keep the Depor defenders unbalanced.

Carlos Martinez was very effective going forward from the right back position last week and I expect him to start this game with the fit again Joseba Zaldua having to wait for his chance.  The central defence were extremely well matched in the way they operated the offside trap against Valencia with both full backs also showing an impressive awareness of where their colleagues were positioned.  The entire defensive strategy shows great improvement since the confusing final days of David Moyes in whom the players had visibly lost confidence in.

It would be good to see Hector get the opportunity to play a greater part this week as last week he only featured for the 3 additional minutes added by the referee.  He managed to get booked in this time which was an unnecessary lack of discipline probably caused by the frustration of warming up for about 4 times longer than he played.  He was hopping about like a demented kangaroo for over 10 minutes before Sacristan actually put him on, I am surprised he had any energy left!!

Bookmakers Bet 365 offer the following odds for this match:

Real to win 10/11, Draw 9/4 and Deportivo to win 10/3.

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