After the thrills and spills of another big European night in midweek, it is back to the more mundane, but vitally important, domestic business of the league. Week 15 is upon us and a Saturday night kick off, Real Sporting de Gijón (often simply referred to as ‘Sporting’) the visitors from the North coast of Spain.
First of all lets take a look at our opponents.
After slaying Juventus in midweek it would be a big surprise if we let any points escape tonight. However, it would be foolish to take Sporting lightly, as they are only 4 points behind us in the table and have recorded some impressive wins this season on the road. Their 3-2 win at Deportivo springs to mind, and I recall that they also almost grabbed a point in Madrid, holding Simone’s Atletico 0-0 until the dying seconds of the game. A quick check also confirms they won away to Espanyol, had beat Malaga at home, and held Real Madrid 0-0 on the opening game of the season. Despite their bright start, their recent run of form has been poor (two wins in their last seven) hence their decline down the table, although they did win last weekend at home to Las Palmas.
So clearly Sporting’s main strength so far this season against the bigger clubs has been their stubborn resistance at the back. Holding both Madrid sides to 0-0 for close to 180 minutes is no easy task, and they only conceded a goal in injury time against Valencia in round two. So, it seems that when they want to they know how to spoil a game and try to hold on for a point. They have also clearly benefitted in an attacking sense from their on loan Paraguayan striker, Antonio Sanabria from Roma, who scored a hat trick last week. Rumour has it that he is not available for selection today due to injury! Good news if indeed true.
As for Sevilla… With the Betis game in mind might we see a slightly modified line up? Will Emery rest Krychowiak perhaps, who as was previously mentioned is one yellow card away from missing the derby? Will he go for Immobile up front, to give him some playing time and create competition for next weekend, or will he leave him out and only use him midweek in the Copa match against Logroñés? Gameiro could certainly do with a goal to get his confidence back, so I suspect he will start ahead of Llorente, who is always good for a headed goal from the bench should we need to throw everything at them in the final moments.
We will no doubt need someone to unlock a stubborn defence, and Banega is our main man to do just that, so I would be very surprised if he sits this one out. Maybe we will see him play for an hour or so, and hopefully by then we are in a comfortable enough position to wrap him up in cotton wool again. I suspect Tremoulinas will also start, with Escudero getting a start in the Copa del Rey on Tuesday instead. One thing for sure is I would like to see Mariano start this one, as he offers so much more in attack than Coke.
I can see us going with this starting XI (but will no doubt be totally wrong):
Mariano – Rami – Kolo – Tremoulinas
Iborra – MKD
Vitolo – Banega – Konoplyanka
What are your thoughts on tonight’s team selection?
Apart from an early season false start, we have since picked up five straight league wins at the Sanchez Pijzuan and it would be a big disappointment should we not continue that run today. So, on paper and on recent form it should be a routine win. European hangovers are not uncommon though, so we need to be on guard not to let things slip. The home crowd will not expect anything less than an energetic, attacking performance however, so that alone should keep the players motivated throughout.
I suspect Sporting will sit deep and play for a draw, so an early goal would be ideal and help to open the game up a bit, and if we can get into a comfortable position by the hour mark then some key players could be rested.
My prediction: Sevilla 2 Sporting 0 (Gameiro y Iborra)