Out of form Real Sociedad welcome a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ Sevilla to San Sebastian for what should be an impossible to call, yet entertaining midweek encounter.
With all the concern over the health of the manager, not to mention the cloud over a certain midfielder’s future, the team could be forgiven for being a little bit off the boil of late. Even though Berizzo is thankfully back in the dugout (hopeful they caught the cancer early enough), and the N’Zonzi debacle seems to be nearing its conclusion (more on that below), the roller coaster ride that comes with being a Sevillista shows no sign of stopping anytime soon. Amazingly though, this is the first year since 2013 that will end without a major trophy to show for it.
In the meantime, priceless points are up for grabs before the year is completely out, as falling further behind the leading pack would be unthinkable heading into 2018. Although, as the table stands, Real Madrid are in 4th with a game in hand, Valencia still look the most vulnerable of the current top sides. They’re currently 3rd, but despite all the media hype and talk of pushing for the league title after their blistering start, they are still only a measly five points ahead of us, which isn’t that bad considering how poorly the last two games have went. Worst case scenario heading into 2018 is we are chasing Valencia by 8 points, best case is the gap is down to just 2 points.
Interestingly enough, Valencia and Villarreal, who are probably the only other team who will give us the hardest challenge to getting into that top 4, go head-to-head this Saturday. It will be an interesting game to follow. A loss for Villareal and they would put a 13 point gap between them and Valencia, and even before the half way point of the season, that might be too much to claw back.
Focussing on us though, an embarrassing thrashing from Real Madrid and a goalless draw at home to Levante is hardly ideal preparation for tonight’s game. The only positive is La Real also go into the game on the back of 4 straight defeats and draw (a credible 0-0 against local rivals Bilbao). They’ll no doubt be looking to put an end to that miserable run before the mini winter break and will probably see a wounded, faltering, not to mention generally poor on the road, Sevilla side as ideal prey. Our form in recent years there has been really poor, only one win since 2006, albeit only a year ago – a memorable 4-0 victory, capped with a Ben Yedder hat trick! Even a quarter of that score line would be welcome.
As a side note, Mexican international striker Carlos Vela will likely play his last game for them before heading off to the MLS. I always enjoyed watching him play, scored some memorable goals, but hopefully we won’t be responsible for giving him happy farewell match in front of the home fans.
So here we are – the final Liga game of 2017, a year full of ups and downs, managerial changes and illness, treacherous players (I’m looking at you Vitolo), our first empty trophy cabinet since 2013. And, of course, a year that will always be remembered as the year we parted company with club legend, and key reason for our glorious last decade, Monchi.
Squad list for Real Sociedad:
GKs: Rico, Soria
DEFs: Corchia, Carole, Kjaer, Escudero
MIDs: MKD, Banega, Correa, Pizarro, Navas, Sarabia, Ganso, Geis, Borja
FWDs: Ben Yedder, Muriel, Nolito, Mudo
Stephen N’Zonzi looks to be on his way back to the English Premier League in the January window. He is not in the squad for tonight, and is training away from the first team. Apparently it stems from a bust up with Berizzo, and subsequent walk out of the RSP, after being subbed off against Liverpool in the Champions League. There is also talk that he doesn’t like sharing the field with Pizarro.
Regardless of the reasons, it will still be sad to see him leave the club, as after a slow start, he became an integral part of our midfield and the way we played. The only bonus being he would command a transfer fee that could be re-invested. I would imagine some transfer targets have already been lined up in this case. If his attitude problem is the reason for his departure, it will be a sadly ignominious end to what could have been a fondly remembered couple of years for player and club.