Espanyol will be aiming to secure their place in the UEFA Europa League group stages when they head to Ukraine for the second-leg of their playoff clash with Zorya Luhansk on Thursday evening.
Story Behind the Game
Zorya took the lead through a Vladyslav Kochergin strike at the RCDE Stadium last week but Espanyol fought back in the second half with Facundo Ferreyra, Javi Lopez and Matias Vargas scoring to give them a 3-1 lead to take with them to Ukraine.
Both sides were in league action at the weekend, with Zorya winning 1-0 away at Karpaty Lviv, Pylyp Budkivsky scoring the only goal in the second half to keep them in third place in the Ukrainian Premier League.
Espanyol, on the other hand, drew 0-0 away at Alaves, although they had made seven changes from the side that won 3-1 in the first leg against Zorya last Thursday.
The Ukrainians have won both home games in the qualification process so far, but both only by a single goal against Budućnost and CSKA Sofia which would not be enough to overturn the first leg deficit this time around.
Pablo Piatti and David Lopez are both back integrated among the squad following injury but neither will feature in the trip across Europe. Adria Pedrosa and Ander Iturraspe both have knocks as well and aren’t likely to make the final 18.
New signing Jonathan Calleri has travelled with the squad and could make his debut.
Maksym Kazakov and Vitalii Vernydub miss out for Zorya with both carrying injuries but otherwise, Viktor Skripnik has a fully fit squad to choose from.
Zorya Luhansk: Shevchenko; Tymchyk, Abu Hanna, Cheberko, Mykhaylychenko; Kochergin, Lednev, Ivanisenya, Lunyov; Kabayev, Gromov
Espanyol: Diego Lopez; Javi Lopez, Lluis Lopez, Calero, Vílá; Granero, Roca, Darder; Puado, Ferreyra, Lei
Vladyslav Kochergin vs Didac Vílá
Winger Kochergin caused Espanyol all sorts of problems in the first leg last week, particularly in the first half as the Ukrainians took the game to their opponents from Catalonia.
He opened the scoring with a powerful half volley and that away goal could be crucial in deciding who makes it through this tie. Vílá struggled to cope with him last week and was replaced at half time so he’ll be keen to get back into the starting eleven.
He likes to attack but has to be wary of Kochergin going the other way.
Facundo Ferreyra vs Joel Abu Hanna
Espanyol are full of attacking options making them hard to defend against attacks coming from all different angles. With Abu Hanna and co keeping a close eye on Wu Lei last week, Ferreyra enjoyed a bit more space and managed to get Espanyol back into the game with the leveller.
Zorya will have to attack the Spaniards to get the goals they need but that will leave them susceptible to the counter-attack and if Hanna can’t keep tabs on Ferreyra, then it could be a quick exit from the competition.
What the Managers Have Said
Viktor Skripnik, Zorya Luhansk: “Let's rejoice that we have a chance now. And then we will look not just at Espanyol, we have the decisive match again on Sunday, a solid team (Dynamo Kyiv) comes to us, a direct competitor for places where we want to be.
“Espanyol is a good challenge for us, nothing is impossible in football.”
David Gallego, Espanyol: “On Thursday we have a final. From what we had in pre-season, we are where we want to be. I know that this team is going to grow a lot and a great Espanyol is going to be seen.
“I am very clear about the path, I have a clear evolution. The fact of adding players will make them believe. The coaching staff are very clear about the process.”