We’re back from our holidays feeling refreshed, relaxed and ready to rejoin the action. It became apparent during our rambles in the Pyrenees that one of the great things about the great outdoors is the lack of news regarding Neymar doing f**k all that one is subjected to. Alas. here we are, back in the real world. Another week, no football for the lethargic Brazilian, and no LaLiga goals for Espanyol – yet.
Espanyol vs. Granada
There will be a chance to put that right this evening at 19.00 at RCDE stadium against a Granada side that, like Espanyol, have picked up a solitary point from their opening two matches. They were also humbled at home by Sevilla (0-1), after opening their campaign with an exhilarating 4-4 shootout away to Villarreal. They have at least found their way to goal, then, and have a very settled side.
Fede Vico provides quality from set pieces, and Soldado will be keen to add to his strike on the opening day at La Cerámica. Winger Darwin Machís, a reported transfer target for Espanyol earlier this summer, has replaced Vadillo around the hour mark in their opening two fixtures, and manager Diego Martínez is likely to throw on Adrián Ramos and switch to a 4-4-2 if his side are chasing the game in the closing stages. Yan Eteki in an injury doubt and could be replaced by Azeez or Herrera.
Scoring is an achievement that has looked worryingly beyond Espanyol in their opening two league fixtures (0-2 at home to Sevilla and 0-0 away to Alavés last week). Just three shots on target, all from outside the box, and the fact that goalkeeper Diego López has been the standout performer so far, tells you all you need to know.
Jonathan Calleri was officially announced as an Espanyol player on Tuesday this week and, whether or not he is involved from the start today, he should at least provide Ferreyra, Wu Lei and co. with some extra motivation to open their LaLiga scoring accounts. The real root of the problem has lain in the plodding and predictable nature of the side’s possession-based buildup in these opening matches, and it is unclear whether Gallego will opt for a 4-4-2, 4-3-3, or even match up Granada in a 4-2-3-1 formation, in an attempt to reinvigorate the attack.
Adrià Pedrosa has been left out of the squad yet again. Information on his quad injury is disconcertingly scarce, and we are starting to worry that there might be something we’re not being told. For now, then, Dídac should continue at left back, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see Corchia, Naldo, Víctor Sánchez and Wu Lei come back into the lineup with respect to the European exploits on Thursday evening.
All signs indicate that this will be a low scoring affair, and we’d rip you hand off right now if you offered us a 1-0 win with a scrappy set piece goal.
Espanyol sealed their place in the Europa League group stages on Thursday evening. The team had travelled to Ukraine with the intention of protecting a 3-1 lead from the first leg against Zorya Luhansk. After a nervy start in which they were lucky not to fall behind, Ferreyra made a solid connection from a corner on 34 minutes. The keeper Shevchenko had no chance as the ball went in off the post, and Espanyol’s nerves were somewhat settled. Lednev threw the Ukrainians a lifeline early in the second half, taking advantage of yet another sloppy and unnecessary attempt to play it out from the back by the Espanyol backline, and Rusyn was brought on as the home side went for broke. Moments later, though, Marc Roca surged through the centre and played a perfect through ball for Matías Vargas. The Argentinian can go missing for periods of games, but he doesn’t think twice in front of goal. Shevchenko, once again, was left with no chance. 1-2. There was time for Rusyn to impress, turning Lluís López inside out before stroking a classy finish into the far corner, but the writing was already on the wall. Espanyol could celebrate their first participation in the Europa League proper since 2006-07, when they reached the final.
Espanyol were placed in pot three for Friday’s group-stage draw, which saw them pitted against CSKA Moscow (Russia), Ludogorets (Bulgaria), and Ferencváros (Hungary). On paper, it could have been worse, but in CSKA they will face a side with real European pedigree, and Ludogorets and Ferencváros are reigning champions of their respective domestic leagues and therefore shouldn’t be taken lightly. The first match is at home to Ferencváros on September 19th, and we’ll take a closer look at each of Espanyol’s opponents closer to the time.
It is proving hard for Espanyol to find a competitive rhythm this season, due to the intensive nature of the Europa League qualifying rounds. With that hurdle successfully cleared, there will now be an international break to contend with after the match against Granada. However, this could be something of a blessing in disguise, as a relatively small number of the first team squad will be involved for their various national teams. Wu Lei will join up with Marcelo Lippi’s Chinese squad for a World Cup qualifier in the Maldives, Matías Vargas has been called up for Argentina under-23’s friendlies against their Bolivian and Colombian counterparts, and Pol Lozano and Javi Puado could make their debuts for Spain at under-21 level in the EURO qualifiers against Kazakhstan and Montenegro.
From the Spanish selección’s perspective, there are EURO qualifiers against Romania and the Faroe Islands to look forward to. It will be an emotional occasion for all involved, after the news broke this week of the death of Xana, former coach Luís Enrique’s nine-year-old daughter.
We’ll take a look at the Spain squad and it’s progression under current coach Robert Moreno later in the week.
The transfer window will be closed and the shutters of gossip safely bolted at midnight tomorrow in Spain. Espanyol fans will be relieved if jewels such as Marc Roca and Adrià Pedrosa manage to keep their names out of the headlines, while there are still possible additions to be made.
Rufete has maintained that the signing of Calleri was a priority even before the departure of Borja Iglesias, which suggests that he could be open to bringing in another striker should the opportunity arise. One name that has been touted this week is that of Alfredo Morelos, Rangers’ excitable Colombian hitman. Whether there is anything to these rumours is unclear, but Morelos would surely be open to the switch to LaLiga, which could in turn open the door of the Colombian national team to him. For Espanyol’s part, his explosive nature would certainly add another dimension to a hitherto blunt attack, even if his disciplinary record would be a cause for concern: Morelos picked up five red cards in the league last season.
That’s your lot for now then, we’ll be back tomorrow to report on the Granada match, and, of course, bring you any other transfer news. Till then!