Opposition Report: RCDE Espanyol

21st November 2021. A historic day for Barcelona. Xavi Hernandez, the club legend, will make his long awaited managerial debut. The opponent? Our long-standing fierce city-rivals- RCDE Espanyol. The Barcelona derby. Espanyol’s most important game of the season. A special occasion for the fans. The game is much more than a small fixture for Barcelona.

Xavi will hope to start his managerial stint at Barcelona with a win in the Derby but Vicente Moreno(Espanyol Manager) will be determined to ruin the party. 

Barcelona have enjoyed this fixture at the camp nou for a long time. The record vs Espanyol at the Camp Nou is impeccable (to say the least). Espanyol have lost all of their last 13 visits here with an aggregate scoreline of 40-3. Last time they won was in 2009, It was Mauricio Pochettino (an Espanyol fan favourite) who upsetted the free-flying Pep Guardiola’s treble chasing Barcelona. 

Espanyol, after a season in the Segunda division, have come back strong and are level on points with Barcelona(17).

Something about Vicente Moreno

As a footballer, Vicente Moreno(with all due respect) was not on the same level as Xavi. The only time they met was back in 2010, when a Xavi-inspired Barcelona beat Xerez 3-1. As a coach, Moreno is a shrewd,well-prepared and ambitious, who is ready for this Barcelona side. They have already beaten Real Madrid (2-1), and Moreno will be really ready to spoil Xavi’s party. 

“If the day has 24 hours, I’d like to dedicate 25 of them to coaching, preparing, watching videos — even though as you get older, you at least try to impose a sensible timetable on your week” — Vicente Moreno

This means he must’ve already studied Barcelona’s weaknesses, The collapse vs Celta Vigo, and would’ve attempted to create a game-plan like the daring and successful one vs Real Madrid. 

Moreno uses a 4-4-2 or a 4-1-4-1 with a focus on winning the ball in midfield i.e. a mid-block. Vicente Moreno has created a well-coached side who don’t do anything special, but try to do simple things right. The team contains players who know what they’re doing and play like a side who want to stay up in the league, a target they’re most likely to achieve.

Xavi must not have a good challenge versus Moreno in his playing days but he sure has a tough battle in the managerial game.

Many Espanyol Players have been under the spotlight this season due to the team’s ambitious start (11th place, currently level on points with Barcelona). Here we see their most dangerous/important players –

Raúl de Tomás

Out of all the players under the limelight, no player for Espanyol has shined more than Raul de Tomas (or RDT, as they say). Currently 2nd on the Pichichi standings (7 goals, on par with Luis Suárez and Vinícius Júnior), got his first spain callup (which led to a 10 million bump in his release clause) and has 2 assists as well. 

Statistically speaking, RDT leads the league in xG accumulated (6.2, closely followed by Memphis Depay on 6.0), 4th in the league in terms of non penalty xG (4.6). He currently has 0.57 expected goals p90. A subtle threat in the box, the former Real Madrid man is enjoying the time of is life. He started the important game vs Sweden for La Roja, wearing the number 11 jersey and was a constant threat. He also scored versus his former club, Real Madrid this season, in a 2-1 win for Espanyol. Barcelona’s already shaky defence have a real threat to deal with, and Xavi must think a way to neutralise the big threat posed by the Espanyol star.

Adrián Embarba

The highly versatile 29 year old right winger has been the most dangerous creative outlet for the team. His attacking runs and passes have been crucial for Espanyol’s attack. A versatile player, he can play both as a right and left winger. He has been used as a wide threat in a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-1-4-1 used by Vicente Moreno.

Statistically speaking the veteran is 7th in the league in terms of expected Assists(2.1), is 6th in the league in terms of Key passes per match, and averages 2.3 chances created p90. He also has 2 assists.

A wide and lively threat, Adri Embarba can also be a threat for Barcelona’s defence.

Sergi Darder

The heart of Espanyol’s midfield, the 27 year old Spaniard is the key piece of Vicente Moreno’s side. A proper central midfielder, the former OL man is a proper workhorse. From defensive work to supplying a perfect throughball to RDT, he can do anything. Certainly one of the untouchables in the side.

Adrià Pedrosa

Solid in defence, and fluid in attack the 23 year old is Espanyol’s best players. The left back was phenomenal in the recent win against Granada and the loss against Getafe. He has been untouchable for Vicente Moreno, like Raul de Tomas, Sergi Darder and Diego Lopez.

He’s been key in the Espanyol system this season, which has false wingers like Javi Puado in front of him, He excels in attack. His defensive game has been improved a lot.

Aleix Vidal 

The former Barcelona man is the only creator at the right wing for Espanyol. Most of their attacks go through him, and he is a crucial piece in Vicente Moreno’s system. Whether pllaying as a right winger or a right back, the former Barcelona man keeps the width at all times and supplies crosses in the box. And whenever he’s in a position to cross, players know it and reach the box to get onto the end of it. 

The derby will be the first and a tough test for Xavi’s Barcelona, who will want to kickstart their journey with a win. But Vicente Moreno’s side can give them a solid reality check.

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