Many thanks to Geoff Gillingham, who helped us out with the Espanyol preview for the upcoming season.
What are Espanyol's expectations heading into the year?
The owner, Chen Yangsheng, has said that he wants UCL football in the next three years, but I think the club are expecting to finish in the Europa League positions. They've appointed a Europa League champion in Quique Sanchez Flores and, to me, that is a sign that he has bought into the project. In my opinion, a mid-table finish would be seen as a disappointment by the owners.
How would you summarise your team’s tactics?
QSF has been going with a 4-2-3-1 with Hernan Perez at right midfield, Jose Antonio Reyes in the 10 spot, and Jose Manuel Jurado has been operating in left midfield. Since the pre-season friendly at Southampton, Piatti has been starting with Jurado dropping to the bench. Baptistao has been the striker throughout pre-season. The back five have been continuous throughout: Roberto in goal, Javi Lopez at right-back, Alvaro Gonzalez and Oscar Duarte at centre-back, and Ruben Duarte at left-back.
Who are your most influential players?
In some games, such as the second half versus Southampton and against Everton, QSF played a 4-4-2 with Caicedo accompanying Baptistao. Reyes has been making way, in that case. Against Juventus, in the final friendly, there was a 4-2-3-1 played and that will be the formation that I'm expecting QSF to use vs Sevilla on Saturday and most likely in the big games this season.
Roberto Jimenez looks like being the best goalkeeper the club has had in a LONG time. Alvaro has become more of a leader at centre-back, but Pablo Piatti and Leo Baptistao have looked very sharp too. Last season's top goalscorer, Felipe Caicedo, still has a big impact whenever he plays. Would expect Javi Fuego to have an impact once he comes into the side, too. One name that could become influential is Marc Roca, a young central midfielder.
How has summer transfer business gone for Espanyol?
Transfer business at Espanyol has been excellent. Many of the fringe players have left - Abraham, Montanes, Canas, Fuentes - along with some of the loanees (Asensio, Burgui and Enzo Roco). We have managed to sign some players from big clubs: Roberto from Olympiakos, Jose Antonio Reyes from Sevilla (though his contract had expired), Leo Baptistao from Atleti, Martin Demichelis from Manchester City (same reason as Reyes), Pablo Piatti and Javi Fuego from Valencia, and then Jurado from Watford. Squad is leaps and bounds above what it was last year. Some starters from last year will now be on the bench. The club's owners have quite a bit of money, but have been VERY smart thus far, in my opinion. Would not be surprised if they addressed a position in January if they need to (bought Oscar Duarte from Club Brugge in January to solidify the defence with Enzo Roco looking so poor).
Make one bold prediction for Espanyol for the coming season
My bold prediction is that Espanyol will make the Europa League and have a good run in the Copa Del Rey!