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‘Can we fix it?’ – Manolo Jiménez looks to pull off the great escape
- Updated: 31 March, 2012
‘Sí se puede’. Yes we can. Fortunately this is not a reference to a new Spanish remake of Bob the Builder’s number one hit in the UK, but rather a phrase which sums up an ever increasing feeling of optimism amongst Zaragoza supporters that maybe, just maybe, their team can avoid relegation against all the odds.
Last Sunday’s 1-0 victory against Atletico Madrid provided little in the way of entertainment for the neutral, but an injury time penalty harshly awarded but coolly converted by on loan Malaga midfielder Apoño, his second winner in as many weeks, drew the Aragonese level on points with Sporting and Racing. Villareal’s victory at Rayo later that day meant that they remain six points adrift of safety, but ten points from a possible fifteen since mid February would suggest that the unthinkable might yet be achievable.
Suddenly more than at any other stage of this season, there are many who seem prepared to put to one side their differences with detested owner Agapito Iglesias and get behind their team. In spite of the midday kick off in La Romareda last Sunday, a season high 30,000 supporters turned up to watch a spirited performance, which nevertheless looked like earning a scarcely adequate point before Diego Godin’s ill-advised lunge on Helder Postiga changed everything.
Afterwards ex Zaragoza defender Gerard Pique and even Cesc Fabregas found time to tweet their congratulations to a side aiming to become the first ever to overcome the twelve point deficit which separated them from salvation after that shocking display in la Rosaleda.
Despite a recent run of good form which temporarily lifted ‘los maños’ off the foot of the table for the first time since November, before draws for Sporting and Racing later that day sent them back to the bottom, coach Manolo Jimenez remains cautious.
‘We still have a foot and a half in the Second Division’, he suggested after the game, and those who have watched his side scrape barely deserved victories against Villareal, Valencia and now Atletico will share his pessimism.
However whilst they may lack quality all over the pitch, there is little doubt that this is a unit which seems to be growing in self-belief. It will need it more than ever this evening, when it heads north to Gijon for what will be a massive encounter at a sold out El Molinon against one of their main rivals for relegation.
Jimenez will have to make do without injured defender Maurizio Lanzaro, but will otherwise be at full strength, whilst Sporting will be missing international defender Alberto Botia through suspension, and injured first team regulars Mendy and Gregory will also be absent.
Meanwhile Iglesias remains incapable of keeping his mouth shut at a time when he would be well-advised to concentrate on doing so. In a week when it has been revealed that he used some of the proceeds from the sale of Ander Herrera to buy land for eighteen times as much as it had been valued just four years previously, land which it seems one of his own subsidiary companies already owned, he repeated his wish to sell the club.
He also claimed to be proud to be Aragonese, despite the fact that he was born in Soria, suggesting ‘el burro no es de donde nace, sino de donde pace’, which roughly translates as ‘home is where the heart is’. ‘I live here, I have spent 80% of my life here, and my children were born here’, was his response in an interview with newspaper ‘El Comercio de Gijon’ when his motives for ever becoming involved with the club were questioned
Such is Iglesias’ unpopularity that a recent poll which offered a choice between ‘Zaragoza in the Second Division without Agapito or in the First with him’ resulted in an overwhelming majority of supporters being in favour of the former option. However a win tonight will mean that the chances of this occurring will recede a little more, and given that he has never suggested that he will definitely leave if they do go down anyway, it is little surprise that the biggest away support of the season will make the 800 mile round trip to Asturias to get behind their team.
Only time will tell whether they get to witness a performance on a par with the heroic display in Valencia, or the pitiful showing two weeks before in San Sebastian.Follow @icentrocampista