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    La Liga Preview: Sporting Gijon - Mallorca

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    Ali Swaidan
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    La Liga Preview: Sporting Gijon - Mallorca

    Post by Ali Swaidan on Sat Feb 28, 2009 7:36 pm



    No Draws

    It is truly remarkable that, 24 weeks into the season, Sporting Gijon are yet to share the points in a single league game. This extraordinary statistic reveals all there is to know about Sporting's gung-ho style of play, which generally involves them bombing forward at every opportunity. Now that other teams have caught on, however, it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to claim the win instead of the loss.

    Clearly, Sporting's major problem this season has been their often comical defence. While the goals have dried up in recent weeks, there has been no reduction in the amount of goals conceded, with the tally currently at on a whopping 53. In recent weeks, Manolo Preciado has encouraged his side to play in a slightly more conservative style, a clear sign that he is aware of the dangers that lie ahead.

    Until a month ago, the Asturians seemed to have recorded enough wins to ensure that they would be around to entertain everyone once again next term. Three losses in their last three games, however (albeit against Barcelona, Real Madrid and Villarreal), have thrown them right back into the relegation mix, with only three points separating them from their opponents in 18th place. This match, therefore, is definitely a proverbial six pointer.

    Recent Revival

    Like Sporting, Mallorca's fortunes have undergone a sharp reversal in recent weeks; luckily for them, they have been moving in the opposite direction. Unbeaten in three, they have suddenly become a resilient side that makes life tough for the opposition, in contrast to their previous matches, where they appeared to give up far too easily. Those early poor results, however, have ensured that Mallorca still find themselves in the bottom three.

    Technically, the islanders are still alive in the Copa del Rey, although only an eternally optimistic fan would realistically expect them to turn a two goal disadvantage around against Barcelona. That midweek game, therefore, is not likely to be of too much concern to coach, Gregorio Manzano, who should play his strongest side for this one. After all, relegation will be far more costly than a Copa del Rey semi-final loss.

    Unlike their opponents, it is fair to say that Mallorca are not among the most entertaining sides in Spain. With just 24 goals so far, Manzano has clearly decided to put the emphasis on defence, often relying on a sole goal to win the game, or at least earn a point. Therefore, there will be a remarkably contrasting clash of footballing cultures on Sunday, and whichever team executes their plans more efficiently should come out on top.

    FORM GUIDE

    Sporting Gijon

    LOST 2-1 (A) Villarreal (La Liga Matchday 24, February 21)

    LOST 4-0 (H) Sporting Gijon (La Liga Matchday 23, February 15)

    LOST 3-1 (A) Barcelona (La Liga Matchday 22, February 08)

    WON 1-0 (H) Sevilla (La Liga Matchday 21, February 01)

    LOST 2-1 (H) Athletic Bilbao (Copa del Rey Quarter Final Second Leg, January 28)

    Mallorca

    WON 1-0 (H) Racing Santander (La Liga Matchday 24, February 22)

    WON 1-0 (A) Numancia (La Liga Matchday 23, February 15)

    DREW 1-1 (H) Deportivo La Coruna (La Liga Matchday 22, February 08)

    LOST 2-0 (A) Barcelona (Copa del Rey Semi Final First Leg, February 05)

    LOST 1-0 (A) Osasuna (La Liga Matchday 21, February 01)

    TEAM NEWS

    Sporting Gijon

    Manolo Preciado will only be missing Gerard and Luis Moran for this game.

    Probable Starting XI - Lafuente - Camara, Jorge, Neru, Jose Angel - Andreu, Michel, Diego Camacho, Canella, Pedro - Bilic

    Mallorca

    Gregorio Manzano will be without Juan Arango, David Navarro, Ayoze and Nunes.

    Probable Starting XI - Aouate - Scaloni, Nunes, Josemi, Corrales - Marti, Suarez, Varela, Santana, Jurado - Aduriz

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Sporting Gijon - With seven goals, Mate Bilic is Sporting's leading scorer, and they will need more of the same from him if they are to avoid being dragged into the mire. A goal last week halted a poor run of form, and the Sporting faithful will be hoping he backs it up this weekend.

    Mallorca - Given the absence of Juan Arango, the burden of creativity will fall upon Jose Manuel Jurado. The ex-Real Madrid youngster, who is on loan from Atletico, has a lot of promise and has shown flashes of brilliance, but needs to be more consistent if Mallorca are to avoid the drop.

    PREDICTION

    The last time these two sides met, Sporting managed their first win of the season after losing their first five games. It proved to be the stimulus for a six game winning streak, and they are in need of another similar tonic this time around. Mallorca have improved of late, but their toothless attack might just allow Sporting to play their natural game and come away with the three points.

    Sporting Gijon 2-1 Mallorca

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