Espanyol 15/16 Prediction – 11th
Having narrowly avoided relegation by just 3 points the season before, Espanyol will consider last seasons mid-table finish to be a comparative success. Their 10th placed finish represented a season of growth and emergence, with players coming to the fore that few had even heard of prior to the opening day draw at Almeria.
One such stand out player was Kiko Casilla, whose form for Espanyol last season was enough to convince Real Madrid he was the man to replace outgoing goalkeeping legend Iker Casillas.
Despite flirting with the relegation places in the early weeks of the season following consecutive defeats to Sevilla and Valencia, subsequent wins against Getafe and Real Sociedad helped them climb to a mid table place, where they stayed consistently throughout the rest of the season.
Their steady league form allowed them to concentrate on putting together a cup run in the Copa Del Rey. Victories against Deportivo Alaves and revenge for those league defeats by Valencia and Sevilla led Espanyol to the semi finals, far beyond what many had expected at the start of the season. A 1-1 draw away to Athletic Bilbao in the first leg put them as marginal favourites, with a Catalan derby in the final against Barcelona looking increasingly likely. Espanyol went down 0-2 in Estadi Cornella-El Prat however and crashed out.
As is the case for most teams, the target for Espanyol this season will be to improve on last season. To surpass last seasons impressive cup run would be a tall order however, so most Espanyol fans would be happy to see their team achieve a solid top half finish in La Liga, perhaps even challenging for the European cup spots with little more consistency to their form. Improving upon last season is of course easier said than done however, especially considering Periquitos have lost some of their star performers over the summer. Casilla will be missed between the sticks, veteran Sergio Garcia bagged 14 goals last season but has since been sold to Qatari club Al Rayyan, and Lucas Vasquez, who formed an effective right sided link up with right back Anaitz Arbilla, has returned to parent club Real Madrid following the conclusion of his loan deal.
Last summer’s appointment of former player Sergio Gonzalez as manager was seen as a gamble, but one that has so far paid off. Popular with both players and fans, he has settled into the role quickly, but will face a difficult task in improving upon his first season. My personal prediction is that he will just miss out, guiding Espanyol to a solid but uneventful 11th place finish in La Liga. Garcia’s absence will leave the club short of goals, and they may end up conceding a few more than they’d like with Casilla’s departure, so it would take some very impressive performances to improve upon last season.