Get involved: Send your news, views, pictures and video by texting SUPIC to 80360 or email us.
Albion In Spain: Ready for Sporting test
The methodology of keeping your friends close and enemies closer has been taking literally by Albion and Sporting Gijon.
They have been staying in the same hotel in Segovia this week before facing each other a ten-minute stroll away at the 3,000 capacity Estadio Municipal La Albuerao this evening.
The Seagulls have a head start on their opponents. Gijon have just lost their best player and are in the early stages of preparation for next term.
But they still have ambitions to get back into the top-flight, having finished tenth in the second tier last term.
A new-look 26-man squad already includes six summer signings and the game against Albion is being seen as a chance to get some early idea as to how they are bedding in.
Sporting still need to offload players for economical reasons. And that is where the travelling Seagulls supporters who get to Segovia might like to play talent scout.
Attacking midfielder Ignacio, or Nacho, Cases has been intermittently linked with a move to The Amex in recent weeks and he will feature.
A report in Spain recently suggested Albion had been put off by an asking price of 1.2 million Euros for the slightly built playmaker.
His colleague Mandi (real name Armando Sosa Peña), a powerfully built defensive midfielder from Gran Canaria, is also thought to be attracting interest from within the Championship.
If either go, they will follow star man Oscar Trejo out of the door. The attacking midfielder signed for Toulouse in France on Thursday, despite a reported £1.8 million offer from West Ham.
Trejo and his fellow Argentinian Gaston Sangoy, who has joined Apollon Limassol, were among Sporting’s biggest earners.
Javier Barrio, who covers the club for El Comercio newspaper, said: “It’s the first pre-season game.
“(Coach) Jose Ramon Sandoval will make the most of it to try things out. There will be lots of changes during the match. It’s not an important match.”
Sporting were relegated from the top-flight in 2011-12 and are generally thought of as a traditional first division club.
But they are not without their problems. Players have complained of wages being paid late and skipper Alberto Lora recently went public with a claim that he was owed money.
Albion’s former Almeria striker Leo Ulloa said: “I know a few of their players, either because they are Argentinian or I have played with them or against them.
“It’s going to be a good test. They will try to play good football and keep possession of the ball. I know their manager and that is the way he likes to play as well.
“It’s pre-season and teams are at different stages. The most important thing is that we play the game with as much intensity as possible and that we don’t get any injuries.”
New head coach Oscar Garcia has inherited a squad which is currently relatively threadbare, especially in midfield.
Of the 25 players in Spain only 16 fall into the category of senior pros. That figure includes three goalkeepers, the sidelined Craig Mackail-Smith and Bruno, who went off with a minor injury in the early stages of Wednesday’s 1-0 win at Getafe.
Andrea Orlandi, Albion’s goalscorer against Getafe, has cautioned against under-estimating Gijon tonight.
He said: “They have got some really good players and they will push for promotion this year, so maybe it is going to be even tougher.
“Getafe were maybe a bit relaxed and didn’t expect us to do well. I think Sporting will be ready to fight and a lot of players will want to put up a show, because I think they really want to come to England. It’s going to be a tough game for us.”
Albion have negotiated an earlier kick-off time with Gijon to enable supporters to catch the last train back to Madrid.
The game, originally scheduled for and 8pm start Spanish time, now kicks-off at 7pm (6pm UK time).
Comments are closed on this article.