Today marks the triumphant return of club football after two weeks (which seemed liked two months) of international break for the Euro qualifiers. While the break hasn’t been the most fun for the fans, one has to think the two weeks off came at a welcome time for Manzano, who had two matches in charge of the team before the break without ever having an opportunity to organize the team to his own liking. Hopefully the time off enabled Manzano to instill in the players some of the style, formation, and attitude he’d like to see in the team. It will at any rate be interesting to see to what extent and in what ways the team has changed since then.
For our part, we’ll be without Navas and Capel, the former still recovering from the injury he had before the break, and the latter out due to the knock he picked up in U-21 qualifying over the break. I don’t think we have any other injured parties today, though, so other than the huge absence of our best player, the squad is more or less full-strength. We have a pretty intense stretch of games over the next two weeks, though (mid-week away Europa, away to the butchers of Bilbao, mid-week CdR, away to Barça), so we may decide to sit a few key players in what is easily one of the two easiest games this month. In addition to the usual uncertainty regarding formation, who our back 4 will be, and who plays in the middle, it should be interesting to see who replaces Navas, and whether Fabiano will start on the field or on the bench.
Gijón is currently sitting 16th in the table and is 1-1-1 at home, and we are in 6th place (with a game in hand) and 2-0-1 away. That’s like mathematical certainty that we should win this game. NO ONE ARGUES WITH MATHEMATICS! That line of numbers also classifies this game into the “games we should win and need to win if we’re serious about CL spots or more” group, a really pretty large collection of games when you consider the whole season. With the teams ahead of us in the table winning (other than Valencia, who’s slightly out of our reach right now) it’s imperative that we win today or risk losing contact with the lead pack.
Game’s at 3 pm EST. Aaron is in Chicago today, and we’re going to try and find tickets to the Bears game so we will likely miss this one. But if you’re around please fill up the comments with your observations so those of us who don’t get to see the game can get analysis and observations from a trusted source. I’ll take SRH, Theo, and MikeSFC’s in-game report over the 4 paragraphs goal.com throws together any day. : )