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ESPANYOL SLUMP AS THE EUROPEAN DREAM BEGINS TO SLIP
- Updated: 7 March, 2012
There could have been few Espanyol fans confident their team would return from Sunday’s game at Real Madrid with three points – after all they have only managed four victories in more than 70 trips to the Santiago Bernabeu over the years.
However they could be forgiven for believing Mauricio Pochettino’s men would have made the current league leaders fight all the way to get any result. In many ways, it was the manner of the 5-0 defeat that was more disappointing than the actual scoreline – especially as the Barcelona side went to the capital looking to consolidate a place in the top four of la liga after an impressive season so far.
In fact it was their second consecutive defeat, following last week’s home reverse against Levante, and has left fans wondering if the once-promising season will turn into the all-too-familar anti-climax they have been so used to over the years.
Pochettino’s side have quietly gone about their business for the majority of the campaign and went into the winter break well placed to make a, what would be an unexpected, second half assault on the fourth Champions League place.
Espanyol resumed their campaign in January with a tough encounter against fellow city rivals Barcelona. A late equaliser from Alvaro Vasquez meant that the los Periquitos salvaged a draw and with it, a lot of confidence going into a busy and demanding January. Fixtures from this point onwards looked easier on paper, however their was still the distraction of the Copa Del Rey and playing midweek with a relatively small squad already somewhat stretched with injuries.
January turned out to be a good month with the Catalan side only dropping four points, the only disappointment being the loss away to Mirandés when they looked to have the match and the tie under control. However focus quickly turned to securing a top six finish and the Europa league, or maybe even the Champions League.
Sitting in fourth spot at the end of transfer deadline day, Espanyol were able to make some very good additions to their squad, signing Victor Sanchez and Uche from Neuchatel Xamax and Coutinho on loan from Internazionale, they invested strongly in attackers which has not been Espanyol’s forte in the recent seasons – bar the signing of Pablo Osvaldo, most strikers have seemed to flop when arriving at the Cornellá.
A 1-0 victory over Mallorca soon followed and fans started to believe fourth spot was a realistic target.
Talk in the press soon focused on first team coach Pochettino who was linked with a summer switch to Real Madrid, after all he has done a wonderful job with Espanyol since taking over. As the club moved up the table, media praise for the side and Pochettino increased, however before long came their recent slump in form. Was there too much pressure of achieving a top six spot ? Did Pochettino change his tactics in-order to incorporate his new attacking acquisitions ?
Coutinho still to get off the mark and with Uche only scoring his first goal last week against Levante, it’s fair to say they haven’t exactly got off to a flying start. A Terrible February saw the Blanquiblaus pick up just two points all month and saw the dream of champions league and possibly even Europa league football next season quickly distinguished. In a league which has very well contested from fourth to 17th this season, only separated by ten points, a run of bad results could see a team drop quickly towards the relegation zone.
March didn’t exactly get of to a good start either with Sunday’s 5-0 drumming in the capital. Espanyol are now 11th in La Liga and sitting bottom of Spain’s form table, which in no way reflects the football played in previous months or how close they have been to taking a point or even all three out of some of the previous games.
Now is make or break for the Catalan outfit with back to back home games against Rayo Vallecano and Racing Santander, if they can take maximum six points from these games they may just rebuild that confidence to kick on for the remainder of the season and cement a place the top six.Follow @icentrocampista