Advantage Real Sociedad in race for fourth

6May 2013

Primera Division Spanyol

 

Valencia's 4-0 win over Osasuna kept up the pressure on Real Sociedad in the race for La Liga's final qualifying spot for the Champions League, but La Real could move ahead tonight, writes Ben Lyttleton.

 

Valencia almost gave up fourth spot in La Liga with a crushing 4-2 defeat at Real Sociedad ten days ago, but they regrouped and kept up the pressure on La Real with an impressive 4-0 thumping of Osasuna on Saturday afternoon. Roberto Soldado, Ricardo Costa, Ever Banega and Jonas were the scorers as Valencia moved two points Real Sociedad, whose game in hand is against Getafe on Monday night.

 

The <a href="http://www.betfair.com/exchange/football/market?id=1.105970739">destination of fourth spot in La Liga all depends on the next four games and fans have been poring over the fixture list looking for clues; from that point of view, Valencia might have a slight edge. They play Rayo Vallecano, Getafe, Granada and Sevilla, with only Granada still having something to play for. Real Sociedad also play Granada and Sevilla, but their last two matches are against Real Madrid and Deportivo La Coruna, who might need a win to stay up on the final day.

 

The mere fact that Sociedad are competing at such lofty heights in itself is impressive, all the more so since they lost six of their first ten games and were stuck in 17th. French coach Philippe Montanier has been fighting for his job for most of the season but has received encouraging words from a former boss Raynald Denoueix, in charge when Real Sociedad last finished in La Liga's top ten, coming second in 2002-03, when a late slip cost them the title. "Raynald's words have helped me a lot when things have been tough here," admitted Montanier.

 

But La Real are on a roll; one defeat in their last 24 games (a 4-3 reverse at Real Madrid) and they have scored four times in the last six games. The front three of Antoine Griezmann, Carlos Vela and Chori Castro have pace, creativity and finishing; that's why The Guardian's Sid Lowe tried to argue the case for Real Sociedad as "the best side in Spain. Certainly the best to watch. They have a mix of Barcelona and Madrid".

 

Real Sociedad are 2.04 to beat Getafe (3.95) tonight and the Over-3.5 Goals price is 3.1.

 

In his second season at the club, Montanier has helped the Basque side continue to promote young talents from the Zubieta academy, the youth system that competes with Athletic Bilbao to take the region's best players. Midfielders Ruben Pardo, 20, and Asier Illaramendi, 23, and centre-back Inigo Martinez, 21, have all been tipped for Spain call-ups in the future.

 

Valencia might do well to learn from Real Sociedad's example; their status as La Liga's third-best team - where they have finished for the last three years - is over now and, without Champions League money, the danger is that they will have to sell more than just one player this summer to balance the books. That has been enough in the past, as the likes of David Villa, Juan Mata and David Silva have left, but this summer, without the Champions League financial cushion, they could lose Vicente Guaita and Jonas as well.

 

Valencia do have some talented youngsters in the academy - the class of 1993, which contains the likes of Portu, Mario, Fede Cartabia and Carlos Delgado, are all highly-rated - but those players have not been given a chance by the hierarchy. That might well change next season.

 

In the meantime, if Real Sociedad do claim fourth spot and play in Europe next season, the next worry is that the squad would be stretched and their spell among the elite would be all too brief. Just a look at what happened to Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao (and Malaga, probably) after recent European successes should be enough warning; as should their own fate, from Champions League in 2003 to relegation in 2007. Now they are back, playing great football, and only Valencistas would begrudge them finishing fourth this season.

 

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Keywords: Real Sociedad, Getafe

Source: Betfair

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