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La Liga 123 Saturday Preview: Sporting-Rayo clash in Week 32

Saturday 24th March, 2018

12:00    Albacete (13th) v Cultural Leonesa (19th)

Albacete kick off Week 32 in Liga 123 as they entertain Cultural Leonesa at the Carlos Belmonte.

Following last week’s victory over bottom side Sevilla Atlético, Enrique Martín Monreal’s side have progressed well of late and are unbeaten in five matches, winning three and drawing two.

Their form is the fifth best in the league during this period and a win in this match would see them edge closer to the teams ahead of them chasing a play-off spot.

They continue to be without Paraguayan forward Javier Acuña who continues to work his way back from a leg injury.  Ukrainian attacker and seven-goal scorer Roman Zozulya narrowly missed out on making the squad for this match but stands a good chance of being available for next week.

Jérémie Bela and César de la Hoz, the latter scoring the winner last week, lead the line in his absence.

Poor away form for relegation strugglers

Cultural are struggling near the bottom of the table but put up a great fight against Cádiz last week.

They enjoyed the bulk of the chances but were reduced to ten men and finally lost by a solitary goal.

Gianni Zuiverloon’s terrible back pass against Cádiz lead to the only goal of the match so he will be looking to atone for his error and he starts at the centre of defence again.

They have lost all five of their most recent away contests and will have their work cut out of them today.

They occupy the last relegation spot, so a positive result here would see them push Alcorcón who are only three points ahead of them.  Cultural have no injury worries ahead of this contest.

15:00    Lugo (11th) v Real Valladolid (9th)

Lugo came from behind at home against Alcorcón last week, with two goals inside the last 20 minutes to win 2-1.

They seem to have got over a rocky patch lately and have now managed to post two wins in their last three outings.

The Galicians sit in 11th place, firmly in the mix for the play-offs, level on points with Osasuna and, most importantly, today’s opponents Real Valladolid ahead of them.  All three teams have gained 47 points to date.

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Combine this with the fact that any dropped points may see Tenerife sneak past them, manager Francisco will have no doubt underlined the importance of this match to his players.  He has a full squad to choose from.

Valladolid poor on the road

Real Valladolid too had to overcome a deficit at home, as they conceded early to Almería but a goal from Óscar Plano and a late winner from Jaime Mata saw them across the line with all three points.

Pucela’s record on the road this season has been terrible, winning only two out of 15 matches away from the José Zorrilla and is a major factor in why they are not further up the table.

Eight points out of an available 15 in their recent matches has failed to appease a fan-base who expect more, so the pressure remains on Luis César Sampedro’s side to deliver today.

Defender Deivid is the only player unavailable for Sampedro and Nooh Al-Mousa, one of the seven Saudi players drafted into the Spanish game this season, makes the squad for only the second time, but has yet to feature.

17:00    Córdoba (20th) v Real Oviedo (7th)

Córdoba have hit their stride, winning four in a row but are still in the relegation zone and three points from safety.

They beat Gimnàstic at home in the previous round of matches and boast a record of 12 points from a possible 15 and eight goals in their last five matches.

This is a major improvement for a side who had only tasted victory twice in their previous 19 matches.

If Cultural lose to Albacete and José Ramón Sandoval’s men can pull off a surprise, then los blanquiverdes could move up a place and be in with a shout of leaving the drop zone.

They are without midfielder Javi Lara and forward Quim Araújo.

Oviedo return to form

Real Oviedo were victors over an ailing Granada last week to stop the rot which had set in, snapping a five-match winless run.

They sit in seventh, level on 49 points with the resurgent Real Zaragoza.  Saúl Berjón sits on five goals and will be joined up front by Toché who has bagged six.

There are no injuries to report for Real Oviedo for this trip to the Nuevo Arcángel.

19:00    Reus (14th) v Almería (16th)

Artiz López Garai’s Reus drew with first-placed Huesca at home in Week 30, then ran Rayo Vallecano close last week, but Raúl de Tomás bagged a hat-trick to see them fire to the top of the league.

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They were admirable performances against strong sides and if they can repeat this, then they should see off Almería at the Estadi Municipal.

For all their industry, however, they have only one win and two draws from their last five contests.  Goals have been hard to come by and their top scorer is Serbian forward Dejan Lekic.

Reus have a full squad to choose from for tonight’s match.

Injury-hit Andalusians

Almería have been hit hard by injuries and have lost two in a row.  They were three minutes away from a share of the points at Valladolid last Sunday, until conceding late to Jaime Mata to lose 2-1.

Their away form is questionable, winning just three out of 15 and will be without defender Fran Rodríguez and midfielder Mandi for the rest of the season as both have cruciate ligament injuries.

19:45    Sporting Gijón (4th) v Rayo Vallecano (1st)

The last match of Saturday is certainly the pick of the day, if not the whole week as Sporting take on new leaders Rayo at El Molinón.

Sporting comfortably saw off Huesca 2-0 on the road last week, to give them their fourth win in five.  In this period, they have been lethal, scoring nine without reply.

They are also very strong in the confines of their own stadium, winning 11, drawing three and losing just twice.  Remarkably they have conceded just nine times at home this season.

Defenders Alberto Lora and Álex Pérez are out.  Fellow defender Federico Barba is close to a return, but misses this match, as does midfielder Hernán as he recovers from a calf injury.

New leaders enjoy road trips

Testing the hosts’ excellent defensive record at home will be Rayo Vallecano, buoyant as they have erased a seven-point deficit to replace Huesca at the top of the league.

Rayo boast the second-best away record in Liga 123 and are without loss in their last eight road trips.

They have won five out of their last six overall, dropping points only with a 1-1 draw at Valladolid, and have scored thirteen times in this period.

There were concerns that top-scorer Raúl de Tomás was struggling after his hat-trick performance took him to 18 on the season, but he makes the squad and should start.  Missing out is Antonio Amaya, as the defender returns from a thigh injury.

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