Get to know: Deportivo Alavés
Founded on 23rd January 1921, 98 years ago, Deportivo Alavés are nicknamed “El Glorioso” (The Glorious One). The team, and often citizens of the town of Vitoria-Gasteiz are known as “babazorros”, Basque for ‘bean sacks’.
Alavés play at Mendizorroza which was built in 1924 and is the third oldest stadium in Spanish football behind El Molinón of Sporting Gijón and Valencia’s Mestalla. Mendizorroza received an expansion in 1999 and now has a capacity of 19,840.
The team are located in Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital of the Basque Country, located in the Álava province. It has a population of 249,176 as of 2018.
Their head coach Asier Garitano, was born on 6th December 1969 in Bergara, a town in the province of Gipuzkoa in the Basque Country. As a player, he was a product of the Athletic Club youth system and went on to represent their B-team, Bilbao Athletic, two spells at Eibar along with Cádiz, Burgos and Alicante among other teams. While at Alicante, he hung up his boots and took the role of assistant manager between 2003 and 2008, before being promoted to manager in 2008. He spent one season at the helm before taking up the post of assistant at Castellón in 2009. In a similar fashion to his time at Alicante, he became manager of Castellón for one season in 2010 before moving on. He spent time at Orihuela, Alcoyano and Leganés before gaining the head coach position at Real Sociedad at the end of May 2018. However, he did not last long and was sacked on Boxing Day that year. He replaced Aberlardo, who had enjoyed some degree of success with the club, as Alavés head coach in May 2019. In his brief time at the Basques, he has been in charge for 12 matches, winning three, drawing three and losing six. Overall as a coach, he has amassed 345 matches and won 135 of them.
Alavés finished the 2018/19 campaign in 11th position, but this belied the positive results that they enjoyed under Abelardo before a period of time slipping down the table which ultimately led to the former Barcelona defender being dismissed. Their highest position was second in the standings after Round 10. They spent 24 out of the 38 weeks in the top six with only one week in the relegation zone, which was after their opening match when they closed out the first round of matches in 19th place.
The team had a moderately more successful time at Mendizorroza that they did on the road. They gained 29 out of 57 (51%) available points on their own ground, but this dropped to just 37% away from home.
The upper hand slightly belonged to Alavés last season, with one win and a draw from the two contests against Real Valladolid. In September 2018, Alavés scored a late 1-0 away win at the José Zorrilla courtesy of a goal from Ibai Gómez three minutes into stoppage time at the end of the match in Round 4. In Round 33, the teams met again at Mendizorroza and it ended with honours even following a 2-2 draw. John Guidetti took advantage of a howler when Real Valladolid goalkeeper Yoel, making his first start of the season, delayed making an easy clearance of the ball and hit it against the Swedish striker and into the net in the fourth minute. Jony added a second twenty minutes later, but a reply from Joaquín in the first half got Pucela back into it. Enes Ünal levelled proceedings from the penalty spot with less than quarter of an hour to go.
After 12 matches of the 2019/20 season, Alavés occupy 16th position in La Liga. As with last season, their good form at home is detracted from by an inability to secure positive results away from Mendizorroza. All three of their wins so far have come at home and they have lost just once, that was in September to Sevilla by a score of 1-0, and they have a +4 goal difference which has enabled them to gain 61% of the available points.
Away from the friendly confines of their own stadium, Alavés are clearly struggling. They have lost five out of their six contests on the road and have yet to register a win. Furthermore, they have a -11 goal difference and that solitary away point (1-1 at Getafe on Matchday 3) means that they have only gained 6% of available away points.
Influential midfielder Mubarak Wakaso broke his hand on the fourth of this month, so the Ghanain is unlikely to feature. Rodrigo Ely may have a better chance of featuring in the squad as he has almost fully recovered from a thigh injury which he sustained on October 5th. Tomas Pina is also listed as day-to-day due to a stomach illness. Alavés have no players suspended or ineligible for this match.
Alavés bought well over the summer and strengthened their attack. The dangerman for Alavés is, without doubt, forward Lucas Pérez. The 31-year-old has six goals and an assist so far this season and has scored in his last five league matches. He joined from West Ham for €2.3m having bagged four goals in 15 matches and partners with Joselu (€2.24m from Newcastle United) in a two-man front line, who has three goals to his name too. Toon fans may remember him scoring 19 in 30 matches for the Magpies in the 2017/18 Premier League season.
Right midfielder Aleix Vidal is vastly experienced at La Liga level and has been an ever-present so far, along with Lucas Pérez. He has represented Sevilla and Barcelona, and this season he has provided two assists as well as being a very good playmaker.
In most cases, Alavés tend to play a straight 4-4-2 formation. They experimented with a 4-1-4-1 look earlier in the season away to Real Sociedad, but this did not work effectively and – after being beaten 3-0 in that match – they have not returned to this since. Fernando Pacheco, who has kept three clean sheets this term, is most likely to play in goal protected by a back four of Rubén Duarte, Lisandro Magallán (on loan from Ajax), Victor Laguardia and the impressively-named Martin Aguirregabiria. In midfield, Luis Rioja arrived from Almería in the summer and has looked good on the left. Manu García captains the side and will be joined in the centre by Pere Pons, a summer capture from relegated Girona, in the absence of Wakaso. Vidal completes the quartet on the right flank. The two upfront – Joselu and Lucas Pérez – are a formidable threat.