Oltra upbeat despite long absence
Tenerife coach Jose Luis Oltra is in confident mood ahead of his side's first Primera Division match since 2002 tomorrow as the Canary Islands club travel to fellow promoted side Real Zaragoza. Whereas Zaragoza are no strangers to the top flight, having earned an immediate return following their relegation in 2008, Tenerife, who were a permanent fixture in La Liga throughout the 1990s, have been absent for the last seven seasons.
During that ten-year spell in the Primera Division, Tenerife twice finished in fifth place, and while a similar achievement is highly unlikely this time around, Oltra is feeling bullish about his side's chances heading into the opening match.
"We will go out to compete without fear," he said. "The team is focused, full of desire, ambition and eagerly awaiting the start of the match, which will be a first in the Primera Division for many. We are eager to compete."
Tenerife have made only nominal changes to their promotion-winning squad this summer, and one of the players who did leave - 20-goal striker Alejandro Alfaro - has returned to the club on loan from Sevilla after the Andalusian side signed Alvaro Negredo from Real Madrid. Roman Martinez, Dinei and Carlos Bellvis have also been brought in, but otherwise Oltra has largely kept faith with the side that finished third in the Segunda Division.
Tenerife lost 2-1 on their visit to La Romareda last season, with Ewerthon giving Zaragoza the points with an 86th-minute penalty, but Oltra insists he is unconcerned about being paired against Zaragoza first up in La Liga.
"We will end up playing against all the teams, it doesn't bother me whether we start at La Romareda or any other ground. In any case we are going to face a good opponent, a team that works hard, and have made great signings," said Oltra, who will be without injured winger Juanlu.
Following their relegation a year ago, Zaragoza were able to retain many of the players that played in the Primera Division and that paid dividends with their promotion back to the top flight as runners-up to Xerez. They were also able to call on the services of highly-rated coach Marcelino Garcia Toral, who was a revelation at Recreativo Huelva and Racing Santander and surprised many when he decided to drop down a division to join Zaragoza.
The club's summer reinforcements include Pablo Amo, Jermaine Pennant, Ivan Obradovic, Marko Babic and Ikechukwu Uche, while the vastly-experienced Peter Luccin is back after a year on loan at Racing. Garcia Toral has included seven of his new signings in an 18-man squad for tomorrow's match, and also called up youth team players Victor Laguardia, Kevin Coscolin and Javier Borque.
However, he is without a number of players as well, with injuries ruling out Raul Goni, Luccin, Braulio and Carlos Diogo, while Ewerthon is suspended.