Crunch time at Ipurúa as Pucela clash with Eibar
Saturday February 13th, 2021
Estadio Municipal de Ipurúa, Eibar, Spain
EIBAR (17th, 20pts) vs REAL VALLADOLID (18th, 20pts)
Real Valladolid lock horns with Eibar tonight in a relegation showdown between two evenly matched sides.
Sergio González heads into this match knowing that a defeat could bring about the end of his time as manager at the club, having seen his team slip steadily into the bottom three of the table as they have registered just one win in their last nine league matches.
Real Valladolid are the only team yet to score inside the first half an hour of any LaLiga match this season and have the second-worst goal difference of the sides in the lower half of the standings. Furthermore, they have drawn eight and lost 23 matches over the last two campaigns when they have conceded the first goal, so the impetus will be on the Blanquivioletas to find the net early in the match and limit their opponents’ scoring chances.
The last five matches have seen Real Valladolid become embroiled in a relegation dog-fight as well as crashing out of the Copa del Rey. They have not won in the league since a 1-0 victory away at Getafe on January 2nd. It is a dire situation at the José Zorrilla and the side has squandered opportunities to put daylight between themselves and the chasing pack, losing 3-1 at home to bottom side Huesca and following that up with a toothless performance in a 1-0 defeat at Deportivo Alavés last week. This has given rise to calls for the removal of Sergio from the managerial role, but indications from the corridors of power have indicated that they remain confident in his abilities to steer the ship to safety in the long term. A defeat against fellow strugglers Eibar may test that resolve, so the result of this match may go a long way to deciding the Catalan manager’s fate and that of the club as a top division side.
Tonight’s challengers Eibar open the doors of Ipurúa to welcome the Blanquivioletas in a state of chaos themselves. Former Pucela manager José Luis Mendilibar has found the going extremely tough for his outfit in their seventh season in the top flight and have an identical record to their opponents, with four wins, eight draws and ten losses from 22 matches for each side. The Basques are locked on 20 points along with Real Valladolid but sit one place higher in the standings by virtue of a slightly better goal difference. Unusually poor at home, Los Armareros have recorded only one win within the confines of their own stadium this season, a 2-0 win over Granada on January 3rd where loanee Bryan Gil scored a brace. They have only that win to look favourably upon in their last 11 matches and enduring the worst start to a campaign in the club’s history. The worst home record in the division has cemented their lowly league position and goes against previous seasons where Ipurúa was somewhat of a fortress. They have not lead at half-time in 2020/21 and have failed to find the net in the first 45 minutes of 82% of their home matches, which has put incredible pressure on the defence. Kike García is their top scorer with six goals, and each of them have come as the first goal for Eibar in these matches, so he would be very much considered a potential danger to Real Valladolid’s defence. In addition, Gil – on loan from Sevilla – impressed at Leganés last season and continues to develop into a fine young player. He has three goals in 15 matches for Eibar but it is his technique on the ball and ability to fashion opportunities for those around him which has drawn rave reviews across Europe.
There is not a wealth of history to draw upon when comparing the sides in head-to-head meetings, with just 12 matches played between them. Overall, Huesca hold the upper hand with seven wins to Real Valladolid’s six and there have been three draws. Only two of these have finished 0-0, so it would be fair to expect goals in tonight’s contest. At Ipurúa, Pucela have a slight advantage with a four win/two loss records in six visits but both sides have scored seven goals, so it is incredibly difficult to separate them. Only considering matches played in Primera shows that these sides are very even too; both have won twice and one draw shared in five matches. Leading scorer in the series between Real Valladolid and Eibar is Sergi Guardiola with three, while Esteban Burgos, Takashi Inui and Kévin Rodrigues have one apiece for Mendilibar’s side. The latter will not feature tonight as he recovers from injury. He scored a 90th minute winner in Matchday 5 at the José Zorrilla the last time the teams met, in October 2020, heading in substitute Anaitz Arbilla’s cross at the back post in the dying embers of the match after Burgos had scored a first-half penalty.
As well as Mendilibar being a cult figure to both sets of fans following successful spells as manager of each team, there are plenty of cross-team connections to consider on the pitch itself. Eibar right-winger Pedro León played 35 times in white and violet between September 2008 and the following August, scoring five goals and providing 12 assists. Goalkeeper Yoel Rodríguez spent the 2018/19 season on loan at the José Zorrilla, but was unable to dislodge Jordi Masip as the starter and featured between the sticks just seven times and was unable to keep a clean sheet. He was in goals for Real Valladolid the last time the sides played at Ipurúa when the hosts won 3-1 and he did not enjoy a comfortable return to the stadium at all. Quique González was born in Valladolid and developed in the club under-19 side before being promoted to the Promesas. He played seven times for the first-team in season 2010/11, making his debut against Villarreal B when he played the last ten minutes in place of Javi Guerra. On the other side, Pablo Hervías had two spells at Eibar, but was unable to force his way into the side. He was twice dispatched to Valladolid on loan, before making a permanent move for €1 million in the summer of 2019. While on loan at the José Zorrilla in season 2017/18, he played an instrumental role in achieving promotion for the Blanquivioletas. This season has seen the winger used in a wing-back role to good effect, but he will miss tonight’s match due to a meniscus injury. Chilean winger Fabián Orellana made the move to Real Valladolid from Eibar last summer, having agreed a deal in the spring of 2020. He played 81 times for the Basque club, registering 14 goals and 17 assists but has yet to make a significant impact in his new colours.