Osasuna v Sporting preview
Sporting look for away success in Pamplona
By Kristian Walsh - @Kristian_Walsh
Last Updated: 10/09/11 9:45am
Osasuna will be hoping to call upon the services of key player Javad Nekounam as they host Sporting Gijon in the second match of the season.
The Iran captain was forced to leave the field during the World Cup qualifier with Qatar during the week but Osasuna hope he will be fit to take part after scans revealed the injury may not be as bad as first feared.
The team from Pamplona started their season with a credible point in the capital as they held Atletico to a goalless draw.
Goalkeeper Asier Riesgo was withdrawn at the break with an injury but looks poised to return to the starting line-up on Sunday, despite back-up Andres Fernandez making a number of key stops late on during the match with Atletico Madrid.
Former Valladolid boss Jose Luis Mendilibar was hired by the club back in February to drag the team out of the relegation zone and maintain their top flight status.
Eight victories later, including successes over Villarreal, Valencia and Sevilla, secured a ninth spot finish and enabled the club to set their sights on back-to-back top 10 finishes for the first time in 20 years.
They face a Sporting Gijon side who will be remembered by many as the side who ended Jose Mourinho's nine-year unbeaten home record at the Santiago Bernabeu last season.
Miguel de las Cuevas struck in the second half to all but end Madrid's hopes of winning La Liga and the name Manolo Preciado, although still not a household name, became a little more well known outside of Gijon.
Preciado is a character. He is a personality that is not afraid to say what he feels or pick a fight with anyone who dare cross him, just as Mourinho found out back in 2010.
He also has a style and a philosophy for his football team, and while it may not be as pretty and as eye-catching as Barcelona's, it is effective. The team is built to neutralise the opponents, and to do all they can to score the one-goal that is needed to take the points.
Nacho Cases has quickly turned into an integral part of the team since his promotion from Sporting's B side and is certainly one to keep an eye on, while Oscar Trejo joined from Real Mallorca and will be relied upon to hit the net when the chance arrives - but there may not be too many of those a game playing for Sporting Gijon.
The hosts have lost just three of their last 12 at home, and will be hoping to get back to winning ways after their opening day stalemate, while Sporting are looking for their first away win since that famous evening in Madrid.
Best Bet: Osasuna to win to nil - 6/4