The next team in our La Liga preview series is tiny Eibar, from the Basque region in northeast Spain. Eibar made headlines two summers ago when they completed their improbable rise to the top flight of Spanish football. The New York Times, American news giants CNN and ESPN were just some of the major media outlets to cover the team’s unlikely ascent, which included a major crowd-funding initiative to raise the funds required to make stadium improvements necessary for the club to play in La Liga.
After finishing 18th in their first season, the minnows were miraculously spared the drop when Elche were relegated instead due to massive financial issues. Eibar took full advantage of their reprieve, finishing safely in 14th last season. Now with fellow minnow Alaves joining them in La Liga, some have hailed Eibar’s success as a signal of the changing landscape of Spanish football and perhaps even of broader changes happening throughout Europe as seen at other clubs like Italian club Sassuolo and English club Southampton.
What are Eibar’s expectations this season?
McTear: Survival is the objective, but I think they expect to repeat their 14th place of last year or to even do better than that. They have recruited well in the summer, so arguably have a stronger squad this year.
What kind of tactics should we expect?
McTear: They more often than not went for a variation of a 4-2-3-1 last season and I'd expect the same this year. They like to target the wings, with the full-backs often getting forward—especially right-back Ander Capa, who is a converted winger.
Who are the most influential players?
McTear: Capa, who is mentioned above, has a major impact even though it often goes unnoticed. Elsewhere, the central midfield duo of Dani Garcia and Gonzalo Escalante are key to everything Eibar do offensively and defensively.
What have they done during the transfer window?
McTear: They've done what they always do, which is lose a lot of players and then bring in a lot of replacements. They've signed centre-back Florian Lejeune from Girona, who should be a very good addition. Girona had the best defence in the Segunda division last season and Lejeune was the main reason why. They've also brought in Manchester United flop Bebe, who is a bit of a gamble, but an inexpensive one.
What is one bold prediction for the club this season?
McTear: I reckon they'll finish somewhere between 12th and 17th. So a bold prediction would be for them to finish higher or lower than that, although I simply can't see that happening.