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26.08.2007 10:00

Racing after Zigic

Marc Guillén

FC Barcelona make their league debut against a Racing Santander side that has been weakened by the loss of Serbian international striker Nikola Zigic, now with Valencia, but boosted by new signings Duscher, Jorge López and Jordi López.

Last season Racing Santander relied heavily on the attacking partnership of Pedro Munitis and Nicola Zigic. After a shaky start, the gigantic Serb striker (2.02 metres) did much to improve a Racing side that eventually finished in a respectable 10th place in the league. His 17 million euro move to Valencia has been a great loss for the team as reflected in the remark made by new coach Marcelino Iglesias: “There’s a Racing with Zigic and another Racing without Zigic”.

New signings

However, Racing have strengthened their squad in the close season with three players with plenty of first division experience: Pedro Duscher from Deportivo, Jorge López from Valencia and Jordi López from Mallorca.

Argentine midfielder Duscher spent seven successful seasons with Deportivo de la Coruña. He’s a physical player who manages to combine an unrelenting attitude in the tackle with an ability to distribute the ball effectively. Jorge López, 28, is a skilful right-sided midfielder. After four great seasons with Villarreal, he moved to Valencia but failed to hold down a place and went on loan for a year to Mallorca.

The third new face is Catalan midfielder Jordi López, 26, who previously played for Sevilla and Mallorca. There are two other Catalan players in the Racing squad - Oscar Serrano and Sergio Sánchez, who completed his loan move from Espanyol on Thursday. Initially he is on loan for a year but Racing have an option to buy.

Thursday also saw Racing unveil the 17-year-old Argentine hopeful Brian Sarmiento.

Numerous losses

However, Racing have lost a large number of players since the end of last season apart from Zigic. Vitolo and Rubén have signed for Hristo Stoichkov’s Celta, Felipe Melo for Almería, Scaloni for Lazio and Equatorial Guinea international midfielder “Rocky” Balboa has returned to Real Madrid after a year on loan.

Munitis the lynchpin

It remains to be seen whether Racing Santander can replace Zigic but meanwhile the whole weight will fall on local boy Pedro Munitis. Munitis has plenty of experience in the top flight and he is very much the leader of the team. His character and ability to go past his marker make him the danger man to watch.

Another player who made a great impact last season is the 21-year-old Argentine defender Ezequiel Garay. He held down a permanent place in the starting line-up and not only imposed order in the Racing defence but also managed to score no fewer than 10 goals!
Racing after Zigic
Latest recruit
The Racing Santander squad was further strengthened on Friday by the arrival of the 26-year-old Polish international striker Ebi Smolarek from Borussia Dortmund. However, it seems unlikely that Racing manager Marcelino will call on Smolarek for the match against Barça.

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