El Centrocampista

The clock is ticking for Clemente as Sporting slip further into the abyss


After a vital point against Athletic Club two weeks ago, Sporting fans may have been forgiven for feeling a little optimism as their side looked to drag themselves out of the relegation mire at the bottom of la liga.

However, after losing their next two games Javier Clemente’s men are rooted to foot of the table, looking as close to dead certs for relegation as is possible in football. To say things aren’t looking good would be something of an understatement.

Tonight, El Molinón hosts a team performing well above expectations this season and battling for unlikely Champions League qualification. Levante finished in the bottom half of the table last term but currently find themselves in fifth place, a point behind local rivals Valencia with just weeks remaining in the season.

In his pre-match press conference on Tuesday, Sporting boss Javier Clemente had a lot of praise for his opposition’s performance this season. He said he expects tonight’s game to be incredibly difficult, but maintained that his side could stand up to the pressure. “Levante are a difficult team. Whether you like their style of play or not, its effective,” he said.

He added: “I would very much like to see them qualify for the Champions League, but not at our cost.”

Clemente also faced questions on his squad, and how he would compare his squad with Levante’s. He said: “Do they have better playing staff? They’re fourth. They play professionally and play well. It’s not just the concept, they have very good players.”

When asked about his own team, Clemente responded: “My players lack something else, but definitely not guts, because they give their all when they play. I’ve never spoken badly of my players, I know how detrimental that can be.”

As is inevitable with the manager of any club staring relegation in the face, Clemente was asked about his future at the club and his relationship with the Sporting hierarchy: “My relationship with the president is perfect. We had lunch yesterday, last week and the week before that. We just spoke football,” he said.

“I don’t know if they [the board] have decided whether I’ll be here next season or not. If the season ends and I’m not here, that’s that. They’ve got to do what they’ve got to do.”

Clemente also took the opportunity to voice his respect for los Sportinguistas (Sporting fans), but doesn’t necessarily share the criticism that some sections have of the club.

Questions on team selection also made an appearance in the press conference, with Clemente commenting on Mate Bilic and his performance in training: “Bilic is training well, but it’s Barral who is playing. However as an alternative, I use Sangoy, who is also training well.”

“I have nothing against Bilic, quite the opposite. I know how hard he is working, but I still have to choose between him and his teammate,” he said.

Javier Clemente has been here before of course and he is a coach renowned for performing best when staring down the barrel, however with just seven games remaining and a substantial seven point margin to claw back, the task of dragging Sporting out of the depths may just be beyond even him.

You won’t here Clemente admit that just yet obviously.

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