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Previewing Rayo vs Real Oviedo - a collaboration with OviedoFans and OviedistaNorthWest (18th March, 2017)

John Mothershaw of oviedofans.blogspot.com and I collaborated on a preview of the upcoming fixture. It was published on his blog here and also on OviedistaNorthWest here.

And it's right here on this blog too. But before you read it, send John some love on Twitter here. And while you're at it, to me here too. Thanks.

I love you.



Sarthak

Given the summer window and the squad that was assembled at the start of the season, is Rayo where you want it to be?

Not even close. Rayo managed to keep all their La Liga starters, save right-back Tito and midfielder Jozabed - and even then Rayo brought in adequate replacements. Maybe Rayo fans underestimated their losses, but even then being joint-bottom is quite unexpected.

Currently, Rayo are joint-bottom in 21st - do you think they have what it takes to survive in the Segunda?

Given that even if you don't count Real Oviedo they still have to play six of the top ten, my money is not on them staying up. The last five games of the season are easier fixtures, and the teams around Rayo Vallecano seem to be doing equally badly, so you never know - but Rayo has no head-to-head advantage over any of the teams close to them as of now.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of Rayo? Any standout players?

Not many strengths, to be honest! Chance creation is definitely one of them - expect to see lots of crosses and passing through the middle. Patrick Ebert has always been performing since his days at Valladolid and his shots from distance are dangerous. His and Baena's long-term injuries last season were one of the major reasons we went down.

Patrick Ebert and Javi Guerra played together at Valladolid, where they were a deadly duo. And while Ebert has done well, Javi Guerra has been terrible - all our strikers have been. Our three strikers have scored nine goals combined. And winger Moreno is the joint-top scorer - and that's saying a lot.

So burying our chances is a definite weakness. Also, if Míchel plays both Trashorras and Jordi Gómez in midfield our defense has no protection, so the game will be over before it even starts. That being said, Pablo Clavería was amazing last game, and Fran Beltrán have been a revelation in midfield - in fact, Fran just got called up for the under-19 Spanish national team. Oh wait, he's going to miss the away trip to Numancia.

Argh.

Piti made his long awaited return to Rayo - how impactful has his signing been?

I asked Paul Reidy this on Twitter when he was signed, and he said that he had his doubts as to how well Piti would do, since he had lost his speed. Paul also said he was always suspicious of second comings because of so much expectation.

I wished I had listened - at 34-years-old I would've been foolish to expect anything more than a couple of appearances and experience in the dressing room. Trouble is, we already have experience - we had the oldest squad in La Liga last season. So much so that when he left for Cyprus in the winter no one batted an eyelid.

What have teams done so far to stop Rayo from winning?

Some teams have sat back and just played out the 0-0 draw, but I'd argue that given how well Rayo are creating chances and how bad they are finishing them, I'd say do what Cádiz did last week - out-attack, out-score, literally out-Rayo Rayo.

If you could have one player from Oviedo join Rayo, who would it be?

I'd take anyone of your strikers - Toché, Linares, Saúl Berjón - you name it. A return of Jonathan Pereira or Michu to Rayo wouldn't be the worst thing either.

Finally, what would be your prediction for the upcoming game?

Given that Rayo have not lost by more than one goal since 9th October 2016, I'm going to say a 2-1 loss. Oh wait, that 2-0 loss was to Real Oviedo. Umm....I'm going to go 2-0 again - just because Rayo haven't scored in the last three games.

I have to say though - not having lost by more than one goal for over six months is a very weird thing to be proud of.



John

Given the summer window and the squad that was assembled at the start of the season, is Real Oviedo where you want it to be?

It was hard to know exactly what to expect at the start of the season as not only was there a lot of additions to the playing squad but there was also a change of manager with Hierro coming in. I guess a top 10 place was probably where we expected to be. It's actually the winter signings who have come in & given the squad a lift as our form especially away had dipped prior to the break.

Currently, Oviedo are 5th - do you think they have what it takes to reach La Liga, or would you not rule a collapse similar to last season?

I think we do have what it takes to get promoted albeit via the play offs. I think the top 2 are done & dusted bar something bizarre. Oviedo are so strong at home and have it in us to grind out draws away from home and also seem to excel in the big games so I'd fancy us in the play offs to get the job done in the home leg of the play offs. I cannot see a repeat of last year’s collapse as it was off the pitch problems (fall out with the previous manager) that caused that.

I must admit I find it staggering that Rayo are even in the bottom half let alone actually bottom. I had predicted then for automatic promotion at the start of the season. They've always had a record of being strong at home. To survive they will need to get back to winning home games. This league is unforgiving and there are no easy games. They must start winning at home to have any chance as away wins are rare due to the standard of teams being very evenly matched.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of Real Oviedo? Any standout players?

The strengths are the home form & ability to just grind teams down. Also there are goals in the team. We have 3 natural finishers in Michu, Linares & Toché as well as Susaeta who chips in with goals and has a great assist record. The weakness has been the defense away from home although that has improved recently. Other weaknesses are sometimes again away from home we don't start playing until we go behind and appear slow in midfield at times.

Michu made his long awaited return to Oviedo - how impactful has his signing been?

Michu made a great impact at first scoring twice on his full debut in the cup against UCAM Murcia. Michu's form has been mixed since then. Fitness was always going to be an issue and a 3 month injury has not helped. I always felt it would be next season before we see the real Michu when he has had a pre-season behind him.

What have teams done so far to stop Real Oviedo from winning?

That's a tough question, early in the season they simply had to put a free kick or corner into a dangerous area as we were very vulnerable from them but thankfully we have improved from that. We have lost a few games in midfield where it's looked like we are a man short at times. Getting the first goal could be the key as sometimes if we've conceded early we've crumbled.

If you could have one player from Rayo join Oviedo, who would it be?

I must admit I have not watched much of the Segunda apart from Oviedo games this season so that's a tricky one. A few names stand out and the area we are short of is goals from midfield so it would probably have to be Patrick Ebert or Jordi Gómez. Trashorras and Javi Guerra are players who've always stood out so maybe one of those also. It's a strong squad making the results and league position even more baffling.

Finally, what would be your prediction for the upcoming game?

It's going to be a tough game for both teams and a tense encounter. It wouldn't at all surprise me if it was 0-0.

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