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Montoya in action against Espanyol / PHOTO: ARCHIVE - FCB

HISTORY

Espanyol, founded in the first year of last century, are one of the classic teams in Spanish football. Before the modern version of La Liga was formed in 1929, Espanyol were a dominant force in Catalan football. They won 11 Campionats de Catalonia from 1903 through 1940. In addition to hauling in silverware in Catalonia, the team affectionately known as Los Pericos, also claimed four Copas del Rey - the most recent Cup title coming in 2006.

Espanyol play at their newly minted stadium Cornellà-El Prat, which opened its doors in 2009. Before that however, FC Barcelona’s city rivals played at the famous Estadi Olímpic Lluís Campanys - also known as Estadio Montjuïc - in Barcelona’s Olympic park. Espanyol’s first stadium was located in the Sarria neighborhood of Barcelona, where they played from 1923 to 1997.

FORM GUIDE & THE BOSS

Espanyol have shaken off their rough and tumble start to the 2012/13 season – a start that’s left them with 15 points from 17 matches and in the relegation zone. Of their last four La Liga matches, however, Espanyol have lost none. They drew away to Granada (0-0) and Real Madrid (2-2), and finished level with Sevilla at home (2-2) before defeating Deportivo 2-0 in their last game before the holiday break. The man credited with Espanyol’s sudden change of form is their newly appointed manager, Javier ‘El Vasco’ Aguirre. The Mexican manager has yet to taste defeat in his new job and he’s injected that extra dose of confidence into a team that desperately need points to stay in the Spanish top flight.

Javier Mascherano, speaking to Barça TV this week, has noticed Espanyol’s improving form: “They will be a very difficult rival to beat, especially because they need the points, they’ve improved a lot under their new manager – it’s obvious Aguirre has changed the dynamic of the team.”

ONES TO WATCH

FC Barcelona’s midfield and defence will have to watch Joan Verdú – a La Masia graduate – very closely. The midfielder is Espanyol’s highest goalscorer this season with five goals, but in addition to being a threat to goalkeepers, he’s also a very technically gifted player. He commands Espanyol’s midfield and pulls the strings behind the forwards Longo (3 goals), Albín (natural midfielder; plays on the right wing under Aguirre) and Stuani (2 goals).

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