Of all the unlikely underdog stories, Eibar’s performances in La Liga this term must rank among the most heart-warming of recent years.
The tiny Basque club has the smallest budget of any side in Spain’s top two divisions, their stadium holds just 5,200 people, which is ample as the whole town is only 27,000 strong, and yet they currently sit ninth.
That’s above both of the Basque region’s giants – Real Sociedad and Athletic Bilbao – a stunning achievement considering they were in the Segunda Division B, Spain’s third tier, just two years ago.
One downside to this success is the flock of vultures that have inevitably started circling over the heads of their prized players, and defender Raul Albentosa has perhaps attracted the most attention.
There are as many as five Premier League clubs apparently chasing the 24-year-old, including all three newly-promoted sides.
Leicester, 9/2 to win at West Ham this weekend, and Burnley, 11/2 to grab three points away at Tottenham Hotspur, are the pair most frequently linked with the centre-back, and each would certainly benefit from his arrival.
The Foxes have the second-worst defensive record in the Premier League having conceded 27 goals in 16 games, with the Clarets joint-third in those unappealing standings with 24.
Albentosa has racked up 148 defensive actions for Eibar in La Liga this season, the second-most of any player in Spain’s top-flight behind Nicolas Otamendi, who’s surname incidentally is an anagram of dominate, a fine case of nominative determinism.
The 24-year-old has also won an excellent 55 of his 79 headed duels this season (70 per cent), and his imposing presence at set pieces has also seen him pick up two goals and two assists in 15 league games.
It would be a shame if Eibar’s astonishing rise up Spain’s football pyramid was stunted by their best players being picked off, but if either Leicester or Burnley could tempt Albentosa to England, it might transform their defensive fortunes.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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