It’s not often that a match in the eighth week of a season can be called a “must win”, but this match really might be among them. Villarreal have stumbled their way to a 2-4-3 record in all competitions (2-2-3 in the league) and even those fervently hoping Javi Calleja can prove he is the right guy to coach this team are beginning to lose faith.
Espanyol, meanwhile, have won their first three matches at home, not allowing a goal, which is rather good considering the Catalans looked like they would be a bottom-half team.
Espanyol, of course, lost Gerard Moreno to us in the summer, and used €10m of that money to sign Borja Iglesias from Celta. Borja scored 75 goals for Celta’s B team in three years (34 in 2016-17!) but couldn’t get any playing time in the first team, being loaned to Zaragoza last season where he scored 22 times. Now in the Primera as a starter, he’s already scored twice. The other purchase was Sergi Darder, who played with Espanyol on loan last season; that’s been made permanent.
There are a lot of familiar names in this Espanyol side: Diego Lopez, at age 36, is their starter in goal; Hernán Pérez comes off the bench for some attacking spark; and Leo Baptistao is a starter up front, just to name those with Villarreal connections. And then there are veterans like Esteban Granero, Pablo Piatti, Roberto Rosales, and Sergio Garcia, all around 30 or over. Coach Rubi is doing a good job so far working with this experienced unit; typically, Espanyol tail off later in the season, though.
Villarreal haven’t allowed a goal in three away matches in the league, scoring four. Both teams tend to create chances, but haven’t been successful at finishing them—though if there is any justice after the Valladolid match, the Submarine ought to get some goals soon! We do know Mario Gaspar is suspended, so Layun or maybe Miguelón Lambrich will get a start at right back. Alvaro and Ruiz choose themselves at center back with Funes Mori playing in the pivote.
Gerard Moreno figures to start and should get a nice welcome from the Espanyol fans....and I am sure will not celebrate should he score.
Prediction: Espanyol 0-0 Villarreal. Just because Espanyol haven’t allowed a goal at home and we haven’t allowed one on the road. Will that be enough to keep Calleja’s job?