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Crunch Time! – Sporting host Villarreal in relegation six-pointer
- Updated: 1 May, 2012
When I first started writing about Sporting de Gijón for El Centrocampista this season, los Rojiblancos had just frustrated Europa League finalists Athletic Club, but still looked almost certain to face the drop.
Six games later, Sporting remain in the same position they did in March. However, there are three vital differences. Firstly, they have cut the gap between themselves and a place outside the drop zone to four points. Secondly, they face the team four points above them, Villarreal, tonight. A win would see the gap diminished to a single point.
Finally, and most importantly, they can be considered the form side, having won three of their last six, whereas the visitors have only notched up a win and a draw in the same amount of outings. One could also consider the run ins to be a vital difference.
While both teams face a final fixture against a side looking to secure continental competition (Villarreal face Atletico looking to secure a Europa League berth; Gijón travel to Malaga who aim to cement a Champions league spot), Villarreal appear to have the tougher final pair of fixtures, facing Valencia (whereas Sporting host Betis).
While the recent 3-0 drubbing of Espanyol has been soured by match-fixing rumours circulating in the Spanish press over the past couple of days, Sporting have announced tickets for tomorrow night’s game at El Molinón have sold out.
This will surely come as a boost for Clemente and his men as they look to clinch a third straight victory and three more vital points towards their survival. In his pre-match press conference, the ever-defiant Javier Clemente had a lot to say, especially about his side and its chances for survival.
“Although many people have said we are dead; we are alive,” The Basque coach said before adding: “I’ve read people say I’m a defensive manager. But we are playing 4-3-3, just like Barcelona, winning three points.”
The Sporting boss stressed the (obvious) importance of this fixture, and the dangers Villarreal could pose, saying: “Villarreal play to a high standard, with good attacking players. Even losing tomorrow night they could still survive, and that works to their advantage.
“Because of this, the game is far more vital for us than it is for them. However, we do have our own qualities and we need to keep the ball.”
Clemente also believes that continuity is key; he announced that aside from one suspension, he will only make ‘one or two changes at most’ to the 11 that triumphed at Cornella-El Prat on Saturday.
In recent games, Sporting have certainly put forward a case for survival and Clemente’s men are playing some good football of late. Although El Submarino Amarillo handed Sporting a 3-0 win at El Madrigal, los Rojiblancos might just snatch this one.
(And I may or may not (unprofessionally) told a friend that if Sporting survive, I’ll buy their home shirt.)Follow @icentrocampista