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Preview: Osasuna home

La Liga Santander Week 4 Preview

Real Valladolid vs CD Osasuna

Estadio José Zorrilla, Valladolid

Sunday 15th September 2019. Kick off 17:30 (UK)

After a gap of 120 days, football finally returns to the Estadio José Zorrilla as Real Valladolid welcome newly promoted Osasuna in the first La Liga match following the international break.

The last time Real Valladolid took to their home turf, they lost the final match of the 2018/19 season 2-0 to Valencia in Borja Fernández’s appearance in a white and violet shirt. A lot has happened since then, both on and off the field. On it, Sergio’s side has started the season well with just one defeat in the opening three matches. That loss came in their last outing before the enforced lay-off, a disappointing 2-0 loss at Levante. It remains to be seen as to whether or not being unable to play the following week after the defeat to try and make amends will have affected the players by, giving them extra time to stew over the outcome where they lost two late goals to succumb to the Valencian side. On the other side of the coin, the international break will have given the players who were not on duty with their countries the chance to rest and recuperate after a frenetic start to the campaign. Off the field, or rather under it, major transformations have taken place at the Jose Zorrilla.  Gone is the old-fashioned - but often loved - moat around the field of play. It has been scrapped in favour of an increase in rows of seating and the level of the playing surface has been lowered. A new surface has been laid and it will hopefully bed in better than last year' disastrous showing against Barcelona.  The seating for away fans has been reduced and this will be the first match where the Club has implemented its "no smoking" policy in the stadium, the first of its kind in major Spanish football.

Osasuna have won four out of the last six meetings between these teams at the José Zorrilla. They have not met since June 2nd of 2018 in the final match of the regular season when both sides were in the Segunda División. Going into that clash, the home side needed a win to avoid being leapfrogged by their opponents who would have clinched the final playoff berth with a victory of their own. In front of over 22,000 at the José Zorrilla, Pucela prevailed courtesy of a sumptuous free kick from Pablo Hervías and a penalty from league pichici Jaime Mata which sparked scenes of wild celebration. Ultimately, Real Valladolid would be successful in their playoff adventure, beating rivals Sporting and then Numancia, which led them back to the Primera División for the 2018/19 season. Curiously, it was current Osasuna manager Jagoba Arrasate who was in charge of Numancia during that campaign and he will not have the fondest memories of his last trip to Valladolid after watching his side fall at the final hurdle.

However, Arrasate was to enjoy a successful time in the Segunda last season after taking over the reigns at Osasuna at the end of June 2018. He led them to the league title and automatic promotion with a stunning home record which saw them go undefeated at home. They won 19 out of 21 matches at El Sadar – including emerging victorious in their last 17 matches – and drew just twice. They were unable to replicate this form on the road, winning only seven times, but such was their strength in their own environment this was not a factor and they still romped to the title as the league’s top scorers with 59 goals.

Despite goals being in plentiful supply in the Segunda, Los Rojillos dipped into their transfer funds and have re-tooled their attack in an attempt to survive life in the topflight. Over the summer, they added forwards Marc Cardona from Barcelona (€3 million), Brandon from Rennes (€2 million) and Ádrian from Porto on a free transfer. Furthermore, they were boosted by the signing of Argentine midfielder Ezequiel ‘Chimy’ Ávila from San Lorenzo for €2.7 million after he had spent the last few seasons on loan at Huesca. They bagged Rubén García from Levante (€3 million) and Serbian Darko Brasanac (€1 million) from Betis to bolster the midfield too. Defenders Facundo Roncaglia and Purvis Estupiñán arrived from Celta (€250,000) and Watford (loan) respectively.

Arrasate’s side have yet to lose a match in their return to the Primera so far, opening the season with a 1-0 win away at Leganés, followed up by a stalemate at home to Eibar, then an impressive 2-2 draw with champions Barcelona in front of a packed El Sadar. They went ahead through Roberto Torres after seven minutes and, despite being pegged back 2-1, the team showed real fortitude to snatch a point through Torres’s penalty with nine minutes left.

Torres is an exciting player to watch, playing as an attacking midfielder on the left-hand side. He is skilful, dynamic and fast and is not afraid to take on a defender or whip in a cross. Last season, he and forward Juan Villar led the side with 12 league goals apiece and, thanks to his exploits against Barcelona, Torres already has two to his name in the first three matches of the league. Osasuna are an exciting team to watch going forward with Ávila and Torres. Villar is yet to feature this season and can add an extra dimension when he plays. In addition, Osasuna have further quality in midfield with their captain, Oier, and Fran Mérida who has been with Los Rojillos since 2016. They usually set up in a 4-4-2 formation and so far this season have utilised Ávila as a lone striker or in partnership with Cardona or Brandon. Brasanac played well in midfield in the first two matches but dropped to the bench for the arrival of Barcelona and picked up a knock in training this week when he collided with Javi Martínez and is questionable to appear on Sunday. Arrasate will also be without Unai García and Enrique Barja as both are recovering from cruciate ligament injuries and will not feature until early-to-mid 2020. Luís Perea has a thigh injury and Iñigo Pérez is day-to-day with a toe injury.

Sergio’s side will continue to be without the services of captain Javi Moyano. Midfielder Rubén Alcaraz and striker Sandro were early season casualties in the opening win over Real Betis and have not featured since. Luismi continues to be a long-term injury exclusion, while Stiven Plaza is also unavailable.

Image: Real Valladolid

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