Basque Boys II – Part 3 | @NickRowe85

Buenos días to you, and welcome to part 3. The basque boys endured a tough start to the season in part 2, so let’s see what lies in wait this week…

Lacruz moves on loan to Oviedo, who coincidentally are our next opponents. They were our bogey team last season, so hopefully this year we can get our own back. Larrazabal is back in for Billabona and after Alkiza’s injury, Etxebe starts on the left wing with Loinaz partnering Laslandes up front.

Oviedo have a few early chances but Etxeberria In our goal is on form. Loinaz strikes on half an hour to give us the lead and it should have been 2-0 shortly after but it was disallowed. Laslandes is injured just before half time, so on comes Arregui, who doubles our lead just into the second half. Oviedo pull one back on the hour through Tiko, and he gets a second to square the match with 12 minutes left. Another frustrating game and a poor result. Laslandes has a gashed leg and is out for a couple of weeks.

So after being named manager of the month three weeks ago, apparently losses against Real Madrid and Barcelona, and draws with Dortmund and Oviedo are reason enough for the board to consider my position. After all I’ve done for this club…

Transfer deadline day arrives and the only player available on my shortlist is Lizarazu, who I bid for but again he rejects. I was surprised that there were no approaches for any of my players, and there weren’t many big deals in Spain, Sergio Porrini to Real Madrid probably being the biggest.

Next are managerless Rayo Vallecano, who are struggling down in 16th, and given the fact we’re 10th and my job isn’t exactly secure, this game has probably come at a good time. Arregui is injured, so Histilloles starts on his unnatural left side and Tabuenka starts at right back as Mendieta hasn’t been playing great.

Rarely am I disappointed to be 2-0 up at half time, but we’ve peppered their goal with nine shots on target and Lopetegui is having a blinder in their goal, I’m pleased to see both my strikers score though. The second half brings just one more goal through Larrainzar, and we see out a comfortable 3-0 win, which sends us up to 8th, but the board remind me that they expect higher.

A day later, Rayo appoint Roy Hodgson, who must have been watching that match from the stands. Good luck, Woy.

I could really do without news like this right now.

With injuries coming thick and fast, it’s probably not an ideal time for a champions league match against Bayern Munich, but the show must go on. Bayern have made two additions to their squad, one of which is Martin Djetou. For us, Arregui is thankfully back and comes in for Histilloles, and Garitano replaces Rios.

The first half is the quietest I’ve ever seen on this game with barely any commentary, but we manage 5 shots on target. Urrutia gives us the lead on the hour. I’m expecting a Bayern fight back, but they lost their star midfielder Basler to injury just before we scored, which wouldn’t have helped. We hold on for a valuable win, which puts us second in our group after Barcelona beat Dortmund 2-1.

We’re drawn against Atletico Madrid in the Copa Del Rey third round. Not the best draw but at least we have the away leg first.

Next up in the league are Hercules, another one of the promoted sides, and they sit rock bottom of the table, so it’s a chance to get some more points on the board. Our only change is Histilloles in for Arregui. It’s a lacklustre first half with no shots on target from either side. The second half is much the same and despite a shuffle around up front, we can’t find a breakthrough in this dull affair and we’re back to 10th in the table.

We’ve a week off for some more international games, in which Etxeberria the keeper and Alkorta are on the bench for Spain, and Etxebe scores for the Under-21’s.

We face yet another promoted side now in Sevilla, who are a place above us and have future Bolton man Salva up front. Histilloles is out with a sprained wrist, but Laslandes is back in the side and Perez is on the bench. We’re 2-0 up at half time with Larrazabal adding to Laslandes’ seventh goal of the season. There’s a few chances either way in the second half but no more goals and the win takes us to 7th.

It’s midweek again and time for a european meeting with Barcelona. They’ve won all eleven of their competitive games, so this will be as hard as ever. Larrainzar is suspended, so Tabuenka moves into centre back with Mendieta on the right. I decide not to let the wingbacks bomb on to see if it helps defensively, it doesn’t and we’re 4-0 down at half time. I switch to 5-3-2 attacking with Perez on for Urrutia and although it’s a better second half, it’s still a rout. The game between Bayern and Dortmund finished 0-0, which keeps us second.

They say the rain in Spain stays mainly on the plane, but it does seem to pour down for me at times.

We lost to Tenerife on the first day of last season, so even though they’re 19th in the table, we can’t take them lightly. Their main summer signing was 36 year-old Portuguese international, Oceano. Larrainzar is back, with Tabuenka moving to the right and Mendieta on the bench. Rios is fit again so Garitano makes way.

I’d forgotten how good Bengt Andersson is, and he keeps all three of our first half shots on target out and it’s 0-0 at the break. I persevere for the time being and my patience is rewarded by Laslandes shortly after the restart. The clock ticks by until the hour and I’m nervous of an equaliser, but Urrutia and Loinaz quash my fears with a brace each. The phrase “a game of two halves” has never been more apparent. We stay 7th.

We end part 3 with some Copa Del Rey action as we travel to the Vicente Calderón fo face Atletico Madrid, who are doing well in the league in third place. They’ve made some quality summer additions including Rui Costa on a free, Mickael Landreau and Djalminha. Vieri is injured, which is a plus. Our rarely-seen blue away kit is dusted off for this one, and we’re unchanged from the hammering of Tenerife.

Laslandes gives us an early lead but other than the goal, there’s not much between the sides at half time, with us having three shots on target compared to Atleti’s two. Larrazabal gets his second of the season to double our lead just past the hour and despite some late pressure from the hosts, we hold on to win 2-0, which the board say is a good result.

So after a shaky start and me almost losing my job, we seem to be getting some sort of form together, which has kept the board off my back for now. Excluding the Barcelona match, we’ve won five of our last six games and not conceded a single goal, so hopefully we’ve turned the corner. I don’t want to speak too soon though as we’ve some big games coming up in part 4, including champions league games with Dortmund and Bayern, a league game with Valencia and the second leg of our Copa Del Rey tie with Atletico Madrid.

See you next week!

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