Midday kickoff today for the latest episode of Espanyol trying to play football. I can’t see such an early start boosting the attendance or improving the atmosphere at all, this, after all, being the rationale for playing more fiery fixtures such as Scotland’s Old Firm derby at such an hour. It is unlikely that hordes of Vallasolitanos will have made the cross-country trip either, so I guess we just have to thank La Liga in its unfathomable wisdom. It’s a good day for the Wu Lei fan club though, who will be able to enjoy a convenient 6pm kickoff over in Beijing. Given that more people watch Espanyol in China than in Spain, perhaps we should get used to it.
Granero is back in after missing out against Celta due to quad pain. Centre-backs Lluís López and Bernardo are mysteriously absent once more, which suggests the Naldo-Calero relationship will have another chance to bloom. Today is a big moment for Calero, who is facing his hometown club, whom he represented 67 times in official matches. Not only that, but he was visibly upset after committing several clear mistakes last week against Real Sociedad, and he will need the crowd fully behind him if he is put things right today.
In midfield, the possibilities are numerous for Gallego, with David López providing another option at pivot. We would like to see either David or Pol Lozano play alongside Marc Roca in this role, to ease the burden on Marc and allow him the opportunity to influence the game further upfield. Darder and Melendo continue their battle to see who wins a spot on the bench.
Up front, Víctor Campuzano has been left out, meaning Calleri should be prepared for another long day of plowing lonely furrows. Wu Lei and Matías Vargas have been the preferred support act recently, but bear in mind that the squad will be heading to Moscow this week to face CSKA in the Europa League on Thursday, so will Puado or Piatti be given a chance to make an impact?
The pucela made an explosive start to the season, with a surprise win in Sevilla against Betis followed by a deserved draw in the Bernabeu. Since then, however, reality has set in to some extent and Sergio González’s side have picked up two points from their last four matches. In Sergi Guardiola and Óscar Plano they possess some firepower, and it would be a brave man who bets on Diego López keeping a clean sheet today.
Sergio is of course an ex-Espanyol coach, having led the team through the 14-15 season, when they finished 10th, before being replaced by Constantin Galca in December 2015. A Barcelona local, from Hospitalet de Llobregat, he will be eager for his first victory over the blanc-i.blau since they parted ways.
What to expect
There really are no excuses today: Valladolid are a team who many expect to be heading to the second division come May. If David Gallego’s team are to convince people that they themselves are not candidates for the dreaded drop, they need to start answering some questions. Where are the goals going to come from? How hard is it to start the match with “intensity”, rather than waiting until the second half? Does he trust Pedrosa to play left-back? If no answers are provided today, then surely it won’t be just the fans running out of patience. Chen sees you.
See you at RCDE stadium. ¡Vamos Espanyol!