It’s said that New Year is a time to make a new start, and struggling Sevilla will certainly hope this adage comes true for them. Expected to be challenging for a Champions League spot this season, the Andalucians are mired in the center of the table and will need a remarkable second half to the campaign if they are to compete at the top. Osasuna, however, will hope to make progress of their own.
Gregorio Manzano was brought to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in October in order to inspire the team after an indifferent start to the campaign, but the former Mallorca coach hasn’t had the desire effect. Indeed, los Nervionenses have been getting worse, losing all of their last five Primera Division encounters, including a home encounter against local rivals Almeria.
“There have been many changes in the team, but the players need to take responsibility for the current situation,” Diego Capel told the Europa Press. “We hope that 2011 will begin with confidence. We must not look down, there is much of the league ahead and there are still many points to win.”
In the week prior to Christmas there were signs of hope. Against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, the southerners were considered to be the better side by some distance but ultimately crashed to another disappointing defeat facing only 10 men. Then came a Copa del Rey match against Malaga, who were defeated 5-3.
With this recent improvement in mind, Sevilla shouldn’t feel too bad going into this important encounter.
Only four points above the relegation zone, this season hasn’t passed smoothly for Osasuna either. The last time the side from Pamplona claimed three points was a mid-November encounter against Sporting de Gijon, and Jose Antonio Camacho has failed to lead his side to a solitary win away from home this season.
As a result, los Rojillos lie only four points clear of the relegation zone, though the rot was stopped to some extent prior to the Christmas break, when draws against Valencia and Zaragoza offered the club some comfort.
After the tie with Zaragoza, which came as something of a disappointment at the Reyno de Navarra, Camacho was left frustrated by his side’s inability to strike, blaming a lack of fortune and some poor refereeing for thwarting his side in their quest to earn maximum points. The performance level from Osasuna was certainly much-improved, and had they picked up the win, los Manos could not have quibbled.
Only twice have los Rojillos avoided defeat on their travels this season, though against a completely out-of-form Sevilla side, there should be legitimate hope that statistic can change.
Ivica Dragutinovic and Federico Fazio are the only two players not training at all. Diego Perotti is still seeking full fitness. Mouhamadou Dabo is banned.
Nacho Monreal has undergone knee surgery and will miss around six weeks. Javad Nekounam and Masoud Shojaei are on international duty with Iran and will miss five matches. Walter Pandiani should return, while Javier Camunas and Rupert missed out a fortnight ago.
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