El Centrocampista

CAN ESPANYOL REACH EUROPE’S PROMISED LAND?

espanyol

It can’t be easy being a fan of a team who are constantly overshadowed by their city neighbours, especially when that team are the reigning Spanish, European and World champions.

It would be hard then not to feel some degree of sympathy towards fans of Espanyol who have had to endure their arch rivals Barcelona receive praise after praise from far and wide.

And such is the media attention down at the Camp Nou that to the casual La Liga follower, it must surely be easy to forget that in actual fact two teams exist in the Catalan city.

But ironically, maybe that is what is actually helping Barcelona’s ‘other club’ this season.

Currently sitting in the healthy position of fifth place, Los Periquitos are quietly moving up the La Liga table mainly thanks to securing 15 points from their last eight games.

Saturday’s thrilling 3-3 draw at the equally impressive Athletic Bilbao means that since December, only two teams have a better record than Espanyol – and it doesn’t take too much work to guess who they are.

And with a number of astute signings in the January transfer window this run of form may not be a temporary high.

Whisper it quietly, but the dream of joining their neighbours in the Champions League next season may soon become a reality.

Benefiting from Neuchatel Xamax being thrown out of the Swiss league, Espanyol have swooped to land Kalu Uche and Victor Sanchez.

Both men having vast experience of playing in La Liga and will be looking to making an immediate impression at their new club.

With the news that Sergio Garcia is set to be sidelined for between six and eight weeks with a knee injury, the signing of Uche in particularly, a player who has already scored 39 goals in Spanish football,  could prove a masterstroke.

Joining the pair at Espanyol is 19-year-old playmaker Philippe Coutinho who arrived on loan from Inter. He may not have received much playing time so far this season in Italy, but Coutinho is very highly rated and will certainly be exciting to watch over the coming months.

Making his debut yesterday, Coutinho played 68 minutes of the end-to-end encounter and showed a more than a glimpse of his talent with a host of telling touches and passes.

Speaking after the game, Espanyol boss Mauricio Pochettino commented: “The result was a reward for how we played, worked and the strength we showed. I thought we did well and were comfortable on the ball and it confirmed we are on the right road”.

And while nobody at the club will be under any illusions that the road will be bumpy, long, and winding over the next couple of months, his quote does highlight the belief that currently exists at Cornella El Prat.

Their last foray in European competitions ended in cruel fashion after they were defeated on penalties in the UEFA cup final (06/07) against Sevilla.

They may have been Barcelona’s ‘second team’ playing in UEFA’s ‘second competition’, but the fact that they went unbeaten during that European campaign must provide belief that they can hold their own on the continent.

Next year they don’t want the Europa League, they want the big one and make no mistake about it, Espanyol are right in the hunt for making their debut in the Champions League.




2 Comments

  1. B4rc4

    6 February, 2012 at 20:31

    Simple answer? No. Sorry.

  2. Iain McMullen

    6 February, 2012 at 20:36

    They’re right up there at the moment so anything is possible, however I think it will be down to Athletic and a resurgent Atletico Madrid.

    On current form, you wouldn’t bet against Simeone’s side either.

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