Espanyol Can Earn a Draw
Espanyol will be the underdogs when they take on the reigning La Liga champions on Sunday, but they have the ability to earn a draw.
A quick look at the best online sportsbooks tells us that bookmakers are heavily favoring Real Madrid in this game. The current La Liga champions are priced at between -210 and -175, while the home side are rated as huge underdogs at odds from +400 up to +435. Those who think the home side can earn a draw are able to back that option at +400.
The 2021–2022 season for Espanyol was a dramatic one for their supporters as they had a strong start to life back in the top division before losing their form in the second half of the season and narrowly surviving relegation by only four points.
Under the leadership of new coach Diego Martinez, they are once again bringing the entertainment, and there are signs that the rollercoaster will continue. They were down 2-0 after 63 minutes of their opening match against Celta Vigo but managed to salvage a point thanks to a goal by Joselu in stoppage time. Their second match featured two red cards and a 2-0 loss to Rayo Vallecano, another team who finished in mid-table last season. So what lies in store for Espanyol fans this weekend?
Real Madrid has made a solid start in their quest to defend their title, but Real fans will be anticipating a stronger challenge from Barcelona this year than we saw last season.
Still, in the league so far, it has appeared to be business as usual. They had to fight hard to win their first match on the road against Almeria, but goals from Lucas Vazquez and David Alaba in the final 20 minutes gave them the victory in a late onslaught that saw them unleash 29 shots. They followed up with a convincing 4-1 victory over Celta Vigo in which they scored three goals without reply to seal the points.
There may be some concerns about the squad’s depth given the lack of significant transfers this summer, especially if Karim Benzema suffers a serious injury, but there wasn’t much that needed to be fixed on the team that completed the exceptional Champions League-La Liga double last season, and all indications point to Carlo Ancelotti’s squad being just as successful this time around.
Espanyol coach Martinez may be considering a change after on-loan goalkeeper Benjamin Lecomte allowed two goals from three shots on target in the opening match against Celta Viga and two more against Rayo Vallecano, although Martinez will also have to do without Sergi Gomez, who was sent off in that game and is serving a one-game suspension, so may be reluctant to make too many defensive changes.
There are many options for forward positions with Edu Exposito and Joselu both in good form, and teenager Luca Koleosho is also challenging Ruben Sanchez for a starting spot. Javi Puado, one of their key players from last season, may also start after coming off the bench against Rayo Vallecano. Fullbacks Brian Olivan and Oscar Gil will have a crucial role as attacking outlets.
Positive team news for Real Madrid includes the likelihood that wide forward Rodrygo will be available for this contest under Carlo Ancelotti. Due to muscle soreness, the Brazilian star has missed both games so far this season, and since Marco Asensio’s future at the club is up in the air, Ancelotti has had few choices for replacements at the wide attacking positions. With Federico Valverde moving to the bench, Rodrygo is most likely to join Benzema and Vinicius Junior in the front three.
Due to his ongoing recovery from a bout of flu, Toni Kroos will certainly miss this match, and Alvaro Odriozola’s availability is uncertain, despite recent reports that the defender is back in training.
On paper, Real should win this one easily, given their good goal-scoring form, against an Espanyol team that is winless and without crucial defensive star Gomez.
Even though Real have not played at their best, there is little evidence from their first two La Liga matches to suggest that they are less strong than they were a year ago. However, it is difficult to say with certainty how much superior the eventual champions were than their opponents, considering the challenges that Barcelona and Atletico Madrid faced last season.
And Espanyol are not straightforward opponents as Real found to their cost last season when they lost 2-1 in the corresponding fixture. Although a victory may be beyond Espanyol’s abilities, this is an ideal opportunity for rising star Martinez to show his coaching skills, and the draw looks like the value pick.