Granada v Real Valladolid Matchday 10 preview
Real Valladolid return to action after the international break, hoping to build on their first victory of the season, but face a stern test against a Granada side who continue to defy the expectations.
A first half penalty from Fabián Orellana was added to shortly after the break by Marcos André, as both players opened their scoring accounts in white and violet, giving Pucela a comfortable 2-0 lead over Athletic Club at a rainy José Zorrilla. Despite Iñaki Williams pulling a late goal back for the Basques, Sergio’s side hung on to claim maximum points for the first time this campaign.
The international break could perhaps not have come at a more inopportune time for Pucela, as they seek to continue the momentum gained from their opening victory but are without a match since that win on November 8th. However, little has gone smoothly this season and it will serve as yet another hurdle that they must overcome in the search to pull themselves clear of the relegation pack. With Huesca holding Osasuna to a 1-1 draw away on Friday night, Levante drawing at home to Elche and Celta Vigo falling to Sevilla on Saturday, results have somewhat gone Real Valladolid’s way. Despite entering this fixture in sole possession of last place in the league, they have the opportunity to finish the weekend in 17th, outside of the drop zone, if they were to spring a surprise win over the Andalucians.
This may well be a tough ask, however, as Granada are flying high both domestically and on the continent. Having won promotion at the end of the 2018/19 campaign, their return to the top flight of Spanish football ended better than most had predicted. Far from struggling, Diego Martínez led the Nasrids to a seventh place in the table and was rewarded with Europa League football. This season, they have continued to progress well and occupy 5th place in the Primera División with wins over Athletic Club, Deportivo Alavés, Sevilla and Getafe to their names. Their home form has been solid in league play, winning three out of their four appearances at the Estadio Nuevo Los Cármenes, and drawing the remainder.
They have also been outstanding in their European adventure to date with a perfect three wins from three in the qualifying rounds, dispatching KF Tueta, FC Locomotive and Malmö FF. In the Europa League group stage, they currently lead Grop E by two points and are undefeated, clocking up wins against PSV Eindhoven and Omonia Nikosia, while drawing with PAOK Salonika.
Since his appointment in July 2018, Martínez has amassed 102 matches with his current charges, with a record of 53 wins, 24 losses and 25 draws (a win percentage of 52%). This is a remarkable achievement, given Granada’s relatively tight budget. They have the league’s ninth-lowest salary limit which, although not the be-all-and-end-all of a team’s capabilities, is a definite marker as to how well the 39-year-old has managed the resources at his disposal.
The only blot on the Granada 2020/21 copybook has being their away form which is less than stellar; a 6-1 thrashing away at Atlético Madrid on Matchday 3 saw them completely outclassed in a match where their opponents also missed a penalty. Their last outing prior to the international break was a 2-0 loss at Real Sociedad. Should they be able to improve their fortunes away from Los Cármenes, there is no reason why Granada should not be in the top three come Christmas time.
With this fixture taking place in Granada, the hosts have a definite advantage over their opponents. Not only are the solid performners in the confines of their own stadium, Real Valladolid’s away fortunes have been a low point in a season that has disappointed greatly so far. Pucela have yet to record a win on their travels, drawing against Huesca – in a match that saw a 2-0 lead evaporate – and losing to Real Betis, Real Madrid and Villarreal. The raft of new signings over the summer look far from a cohesive unit, but showed signs of improvement in the win against Athletic Club. Injuries have been a major headache for Sergio González, especially in a defensive line which was one of the saving graces to an underachieving season last year. Goals are still hard to come by with no single player on the side finding the net more than once this campaign; although if one were to put a positive slant on this it could be suggested that seven individual scorers shows that there is not a reliance on one individual to provide the goals. After nine matches of the 2019/20 edition of LaLiga, Real Valladolid had scored eight times (one more than this season) through four separate contributirs; Sergi Guardiola, Óscar Plano, Pablo Hervías and Míchel. An own goal from Athletic’s Iñigo Martínez in Matchday 9 added the last one. However, this would simply be masking the deficiencies which have hamstrung the blanquivioletas since their return to Primera in 2018. Summer capture Shon Weissman, who scored for fun in the Austrain Bundesliga, was left as the only one of the three recognised strikers in the squad without a goal to his name following Marcos André scoring in the last match.
In addition to the long term absence of Kiko Olivas, Sergio's defensive headache continues. Left-back Raúl García Carnero misses out having picked up a knock in training this week, leaving Nacho Martinez as the only natural player in that position. On the opposite flank, Saidy Janko is still unavailable which would see Luis Pérez retain his place at right-back unless Sergio opted to utilise winger Pablo Hervías as an attacking wing-back as he has in two matches already this season. Up front Marcos André, fresh from his goal-scoring feat against Athletic Club, is unlikely to feature so it is plausible to suggest Weismann and Sergi Guardiola will lead the attack.
Granada hold a distinct advantage over Real Valladolid in the head-to-head stakes, especially in matches held at Los Cármenes where the Andalucians have won seven out of the ten encounters between the sides and enjoy a +17 goal difference.