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Albion in Spain: Garcia in at deep end against Getafe
ALTHOUGH he has the comfort of being back on Spanish soil, Oscar Garcia has been thrown in at the deep end by Albion’s pre-season schedule.
By now the Seagulls have normally had one or two more sharpeners against Sussex sides before tackling higher level opposition.
That is not the case for the new head coach. Garcia’s second friendly in charge will be quite a contrast to the 3-0 win at Whitehawk in his first.
The top-flight season in Spain may start a fortnight later than the Championship but Getafe will still provide a stern test early into their preparations at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez tonight (7.30 kick-off UK time).
Getafe have a similar profile in La Liga to Fulham in the Premier League. Their stadium, named after the striker from Getafe who starred for Real Mardid and Spain in the 1990s, only has a capacity of 17,500.
Based in a suburb south of Madrid, they are not an especially big club but they have made a habit of punching above their weight.
Since promotion to La Liga in 2003-04 Getafe have finished in the top ten four times, including as high as sixth in 2009-10. During that time they have never been lower than 17th.
The former UEFA Cup quarter-finalists have been managed in the past by Michael Laudrup and Bernd Schuster, prior to him becoming head coach of Real Madrid.
Luis Garcia Plaza, the 40-year-old ex-coach of Levante, will be trying to steer them into a Europa League spot this season, which gets under way with a visit to Real Sociedad on August 16.
Getafe’s build-up, after Albion, includes a trip to Holland for matches against AZ Alkmaar, Groningen and Feyenoord.
Their prospects of improving on last season’s tenth-placed finish have been boosted by exercising their buyout option on star player Pedro Leon.
The 26-year-old midfielder’s move back to Getafe became permanent last month for £6 million euros after he went to Real Madrid for £10 million euros three years ago and was then loaned back 13 months later.
Club president Angel Torres expects Leon to spearhead a challenge for a European place.
He said: “We need to aspire for something more. We’ve had two years where we’ve missed out on the chance to fight for the Europa League. We’re always ambitious.”
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