Espanyol Season Preview: Will an increased workload affect their league finish?
Marc Roca in action this summer (Getty Images/Eurasia Sport Images)

Finishing seventh was something of an anomaly for the other club from Barcelona. Having been more known for mid-table obscurity, to fight their way into contention for Europa League or even Champions League at times last season, was quite remarkable. Having lost their coach, this season provides a new challenge for the Periquitos.

Transfer Business Overview

The summer has seen Espanyol bring in four new players. The most important of those will most likely be that of central defender Fernando Calero. He comes from Real Valladolid for €8 million. Having lost their best defender in Mario Hermoso to Atletico Madrid for €25 million, Calero needs to find his feet quickly at his new club.

Other signings include Matías Vargas from Velez for €10.5 million, Ander Iturraspe from Athletic on a free, and Andrés Prieto on a free from Leganés. With talented left-back Adria Pedrosa having been moved up from the reserves, the team looks set for the season.

The most notable departure after Hermoso is that of Borja Iglesias to Real Betis for €28 million. Last season's top scorer with 17 goals will be greatly missed in Barcelona, and the question is now who it is that will score goals for them. Other departures include Aarón Martin, Hernán Peréz, Roberto, Álvaro Vázquez and Óscar Duarte.

The Manager

Last season’s high-flying season was mainly down to one man, Espanyol’s academy graduate Joan Francesc ‘Ruby’ Ferrer. He took over in the summer and impressed the whole of Spain with scintillating football. Now, however, he has taken over Real Betis, and Espanyol has given the reigns back to David Gallego.

He was in charge for a short period of time before Ruby took the job, and has since been in charge of the B-team. Gallego now faces an immense challenge. Last season’s seventh-place will be, if not impossible, very difficult to copy. However, having been working closely with Ruby last season as the B-coach, he may well have a few tricks up his sleeve.

Player to Watch

Borja Iglesias was going to be mentioned here, however, the striker was sold as the piece was being written. Instead, Sergi Darder is the player to watch out for. The number ten played 34 games last season in the league, scored four goals and provided three assists. With Iglesias gone, Darder will have to provide for another striker this season.

One for the Future

Marc Roca is the youngest player to have a significant role at the club. Having played 35 league games last season, the 22 year old was the heartbeat of the team’s attacking play, as well as being an astute defender. The defensive midfielder is your typical regista, moves around the field to receive the ball from his teammates, excels at finding the killer pass, as well as creating space for his teammates. A perfect player for a possession-based team like the one witnessed under Ruby, and he will be a key player for Gallego as well.

Predicted Finish

It is difficult to predict exactly where this team will end up. Last season everything worked perfectly for the club, as Ruby’s tactics seemed to work wonders with the players he had at hand. With the coach gone and Gallego in charge, as well as an increased workload with Europa League games, one should expect them to drop down the table.

A top 10 finish is not out of question though, but that requires a few things. For one, Calero needs to step up and take over Hermoso’s position and significance in the team, the team desperately needs a striker given Iglesias' departure, and Gallego needs to tweak the tactics so that Espanyol do not become too similar to last year. The other teams in the league are well aware of their threats now as opposed to last year, and will be ready to counter them. These are three big question marks, and especially the complete absence of a goalscorer will hurt them. Therefore, it would not be surprising if Espanyol end up in the bottom half of the table this season.