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    La Liga Preview: Racing Santander - Osasuna

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    Ali Swaidan
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    La Liga Preview: Racing Santander - Osasuna

    Post by Ali Swaidan on Sat Feb 28, 2009 8:09 pm



    Kick-Off: Sunday March 01, 17:00 CET, El Sardinero, Santander
    Form Slump

    Despite their impressive start to the season, Racing Santander are still only a few poor results away from the drop zone, largely due to a dip that has seen them winless in five games. Along with elimination from the UEFA Cup and the Copa del Rey, the last month has left a bitter taste in most Racing fan's mouths. The one silver lining, however, is that they will no longer have to play the big boys for the rest of the season, having completed the second leg of the infamous horror fixture run.

    At the heart of Racing's problems is their poor goal-scoring form, which has seen them find the net a mere 25 times thus far. The recent return of Nikola Zigic has improved things slightly, but there is still a sense that the side are far too reliant on the giant Serb. However, as they come up against the teams situated closer to the foot of the table, the opportunities to attack should be more evident.

    Racing's defensive performance has been far more impressive, but they will have to do without Cesar Navas for the rest of the season, after the defender completed a lucrative move to Rubin Kazan. The gangly centre back was very much an integral part of Santander's miserly defence, and it will be interesting to see how they cope without him. With the season fast approaching the business end, they can ill afford any slip ups in their strongest area of the pitch.

    Recent Resurgence

    In contrast to their opponents, Osasuna have enjoyed a dramatic improvement in form in recent times. They are undefeated in five games, and indeed, their last loss came in highly controversial fashion, when they were robbed of the points at the Bernabeu. While Osasuna looked odds on to go down a month ago, they are now out of the drop zone, with no intention to return.

    That being said, there is still a lot of work to do before Osasuna can consider themselves remotely safe. Only one point separates them from Mallorca in 18th, meaning they are still a mere loss away from the bottom three. However, the recent rounds have indicated that Jose Antonio Camacho's men have more fight about them than some of their immediate rivals.

    Much like Racing, their success is based around a mean defence, which does not bode well for those expecting many goals from this game. With 25 for and 30 against, Osasuna's matches tend to be decided by the odd goal, which means that this encounter could see both sides canceling each other out. It could, therefore, come down to a moment of individual brilliance to decide the outcome.

    FORM GUIDE

    Racing Santander

    LOST 1-0 (A) Mallorca (La Liga Matchday 24, February 22)

    DREW 1-1 (H) Villarreal (La Liga Matchday 23, February 15)

    LOST 1-0 (A) Real Madrid (La Liga Matchday 22, February 07)

    LOST 2-1 (H) Barcelona (La Liga Matchday 21, February 01)

    WON 2-0 (A) Sevilla (La Liga Matchday 20, January 25)

    Osasuna

    WON 2-0 (H) Numancia (La Liga Matchday 24, February 22)

    DREW 0-0 (A) Deportivo La Coruna (La Liga Matchday 23, February 14)

    WON 1-0 (H) Valencia (La Liga Matchday 22, February 08)

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

    DREW 1-1 (A) Villarreal (La Liga Matchday 20, January 24)

    TEAM NEWS

    Racing Santander

    Juan Ramon Lopez Muniz will be without Mohamed Tchite, who is out for six to eight weeks, as well as Cesar Navas.

    Probable Starting XI - Tono - Valera, Garay, Navas, Marcano - Colsa, Lacen, Serrano, Munitis - Zigic, Pereira

    Osasuna

    Jose Antonio Camacho will be missing Roversio, Josetxo and Dady for this one.

    Probable Starting XI - Roberto - Azpilicueta, Miguel Flano, Cruchaga, Monreal - Juanfran, Punal, Nekounam, Plasil, Masoud - Pandiani

    PLAYERS TO WATCH

    Racing Santander - It may seem like an obvious choice, but Nikola Zigic really does hold Racing's future in his large hands. Having already scored five goals from just eight games, the massive striker is back to being one of the most feared marksmen in the league.

    Osasuna - The Basque side's recent resurgence has been due in no small part to the form of Jaroslav Plasil, who looks to have finally settled in Pamplona. Contributing in attack and defence, the Czech midfielder is, along with Javad Nekounam, the man around whom Osasuna structure their play, making him a vital cog in their machine.

    PREDICTION

    Both these sides have mean defences and do not score too many, so those expecting a flurry of goals are likely to be disappointed. With so much on the line, nerves may prevent both sides from playing to their full potential, so a draw is the most likely result.

    Racing Santander 1-1 Osasuna

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