It’s another early kickoff for Espanyol, prime time for the Wu Lei fan club, who will be hoping their man can follow up on his lovely chip against CSKA Moscow on Thursday to fire the blanc-i-blau to a much-needed La Liga victory over Mallorca at Son Moix. Espanyol have a chance to build up momentum for the first time this season, just in time for the inevitable disruption that comes with an international break. If they were to get the win, David Gallego could reflect on three wins, two draws and two defeats from the dreaded seven games in the past 21 days. Even the most ardent of doubters would have to admit that is a decent return in current circumstances.
The squad has travelled straight to the Balearic capital from Russia, and of that victorious ensemble, only Calero will miss out, through suspension. There are question marks over Calleri’s fitness after he limped off with just twenty minutes played on Thursday, although he has been included in the provisional match-day squad. Víctor Campuzano would be entitled to think he has earned the opportunity to start after his hustling heroics off the bench, but then again his reward for an assist against Real Sociedad was to be excluded completely from the subsequent squad, so who knows what Gallego may do.
There will certainly be some changes to the starting XI, with only 63 hours and 5,000km between the two games. Javi López, Naldo, Dídac and Darder all stand a good chance of coming back into the fold, with Víctor Gómez hopeful of making his first-team bow. However, Gallego must be careful not to undo any of the numerous positive steps taken in the CSKA clash. David López was back where he belongs and in commanding form. Corchia and Pedrosa gave Espanyol wings and the opponents pause for thought in terms of how many men they committed to the attack. Matías Vargas is bloody great at football.
Of course, there is many a question as yet unanswered. The midfield put in a gloriously combative performance in the week, with Víctor Sánchez absolutely thriving in such a role. But are they capable of taking the initiative and making the play against a supposedly weaker adversary, as Mallorca undoubtedly are?
The front line is where Espanyol have fewest options, although Piatti may get the nod after a busy cameo on Thursday. Javi Puado will be lucky to be included in the final 18.
Speaking of Javi, he has missed out on the latest Spain under-21 squad, announced earlier this week. There will, however, be a considerable perico contingent in the shape of Pol Lozano, Adrià Pedrosa and Pipa. Yep, Pipa. Pedrosa and Pipa are both in line to make their international debuts at this level as Luís de la Fuente’s side face Montenegro, so congratulations to them.
Elsewhere, Wu Lei will join up with the China squad for World Cup qualifiers against Guam and the Philippines, while Matías Vargas has been called up by Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni as he continues his experimental reign with friendlies against Germany and Ecuador.
Today, though, all minds are focused on bringing the three points back to Barcelona. Grab a coffee and offer up your spiritual support. ¡Vamos Espanyol!