Coach: Abelardo Fernandez
Key signings: Antonio Sanabria, Omar Mascarell, Alen Halilovic
Key sales: Santi Jara, Alex Serrano
Last season: 2nd in La Segunda
This season: 20th
Predicted finish is the average finish of the Football Espana team.
It’s a never-ending cycle. Three years of dwindling in the Segunda Division later and Sporting Gijon are back in La Liga, but it will take a super-human effort for the Asturian outfit to avoid relegation this time out.
Like last season, though, Coach Abelardo Fernandez will be relying on the flair of his youthful set-up to produce the goods. Indeed, Sporting entered 2014-15 without any new signings and were forced to rely on the young graduates from Mareo. Yet, against all the odds, the courageous attitude of the young side saw them secure promotion on the final matchday, when most believed they would only qualify through the playoffs.
Despite their lack of signings, however, Sporting find themselves in good stead for the new campaign. The likes of Jony and Carlos Castro matured significantly throughout 14-15, the former playing a key role for the side in midfield as he made 39 appearances and scored six goals in the process. The emergence of Miguel Angel Guerrero too is promising for the season ahead. The striker scored 10 goals in 34 appearances.
Key to Sporting's form has been the appointment of Abelardo, who is Rojiblanco through and through. Indeed, his ability to manage a team brimming with inexperience has been by far the greatest achievement in his short managerial career. And as the 45-year-old prepares to pit his wits against the best in the business this season, he will have to rely on the side’s defensive stability. The former Barcelona player established a backline which conceded just 27 goals last season, the fewest in La Segunda.
Undoubtedly, the transfer ban placed on Sported has placed severe limitations, with the club forced into the sale of several players just so they could afford to bring in a new crop of players. Among the club’s three signings thus far are the acquisitions of Omar Mascarell and Antonio Sanabria, both of whom are promising youngsters with a lot of offer.
Antonio Sanabria, in particular, will be the player to watch. The former Barca B player enjoyed stints in Italy with Sassuolo and Roma before returning to Spain. The 19-year-old has also won five caps for Paraguay and could prove to be the difference this season.
All in all, 15-16 will prove to be a difficult one for Sporting. The transfer restrictions have undoubtedly hit Asturians hard and, once again, Abelardo will have to rely on inexperience to lift his side above the relegation zone.