It’s Sunday morning in the midst of an international break, so, unsurprisingly, there isn’t too much on the radar regarding the Espanyol first team. These two weeks could, however, be the making or breaking of David Gallego’s Espanyol project. Javi Gracia’s dismissal by Watford yesterday was a reminder that the managerial merry-go-round doesn’t allow for extended periods of drought, and the fact that coaches like Gracia and Pablo Machín currently find themselves unemployed only serves to increase the pressure.

The squad currently working at Ciutat Esportiva Dani Jarque does not include Vargas, Wu Lei, Puado or Lozano, who are all on international duty, while Pedrosa, Iturraspe and Piatti are still training separately following their respective injuries. A welcome boost comes in the form of the return of David López, who has been out for the last six months with a cruciate ligament rupture. As one of the club captains, the 29-year-old should be a calming influence and give the side a shot of confidence. Speculation is rife as to how he will fit into Gallego’s plans: in his first spell at Espanyol and in Rafa Benitez’s Napoli side he mainly played as a holding midfielder. Despite the fact that, since returning home to Barcelona in 2016, he has been used as a central defender, it seems likely that he may retake his place further upfield, forming a partnership with Marc Roca. In any case, Gallego is unlikely to throw him straight back into the starting lineup after such a long period on the sidelines. 

David López, Espanyol captain.
David López will be raring to go

There is no letup in the upcoming month of fixtures, sandwiched in between this international break and the next:

Sept. 15: Eibar (A)

Sept. 19: Ferencváros (H) – Europa League

Sept. 22: Real Sociedad (H)

Sept. 26: Celta Vigo (A)

Sept. 29: Valladolid (H)

Oct. 3: CSKA Moscow (A) – Europa League

Oct. 6: Mallorca (A) 

Seven games in 22 days is probably not what the doctor ordered, but this, after all, is the nature of European football. Sink or swim.

International action

Javi Puado made his debut for Spain and under-21 level as La Rojita got their latest EURO under-21 qualifying off to a winning start in Kazakhstan. Wearing the number 11 shirt, he lined up on the left of the front line in Luís de la Fuente’s 4-3-3, standard at all levels of the Spanish international setup. 

After a bright first half in which he had a couple of efforts on goal, and set up a headed chance for Barça’s Carles Aleñà, he was replaced by Sevilla’s Alejandro Pozo. Spain were dominant throughout without capitalising fully on their superiority, winning 0-1 thanks to a Dani Olmo penalty. Olmo, one of the big breakthroughs in the EURO under-21 last summer, will represent Dinamo Zagreb in the Champions League this season. 

Highlights of Kazakhstan 0-1 Spain in the EURO u21 qualifiers

Matías Vargas started for Argentina under-23s on Thursday, assisting two goals in a comfortable 5-0 victory over Bolivia. He may also be involved in this evening’s match against Colombia in Buenos Aires. The South American sides are looking ahead to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic qualifying, which gets underway in January.

Spain vs Faroe Islands (Sunday, 20.45)

La selección take their roadshow to Gijón tonight, where Robert Moreno is expected to make use of his full squad and rotate heavily after Thursday’s 1-2 victory over Romania. If he wasnt to go full-tinkerman we could see something along the lines of:

Possible starting XI for Spain against the Faroe Islands
Possible starting XI for Spain against the Faroe Islands

Whatever he does, we can be assured of another three points for La Roja to add to their impressive performance so far.

EURO 2020 qualifying group F 08/09/19
EURO 2020 qualifying group F 08/09/19

That’s your lot for today, enjoy your Sundays!

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