Thursday, January 3, 2008
La Liga: High-flying Espanyol face Villarreal
MADRID, Jan 3 (Reuters) - Primera Liga surprise package Espanyol are out to prove they can remain a force to be reckoned with in the second half of the season when they host
fellow high fliers Villarreal at Montjuic on Saturday.
A 13-match unbeaten run has catapulted Ernesto Valverde's
side into third spot in the table, a point behind city rivals
Barcelona, and a win over Villarreal will provide them with an
important boost at the start of a demanding month.
'We couldn't have had a better 2007,' said Valverde. 'We
ended the year close to the top of the table and now we want to
consolidate that position by getting a good result against
'Getting into a good position in the table isn't that
difficult, but staying there is. We want people to take us
seriously and that will happen if we maintain this sort of
Spanish international strikers Luis Garcia and Raul Tamudo
have scored half of their side's league goals this season and
both players were on target again in Wednesday's 2-1 King's Cup
win over Deportivo Coruna.
Villarreal, who are just a point adrift of Espanyol, also
have plenty of firepower up front with fit-again Italian
striker Giuseppe Rossi likely to accompany in-form Turkish
international Nihat Kahveci in attack.
Real Madrid opened up a comfortable seven-point lead at the
top of the table after their 1-0 win at Barcelona last time out
and will be confident of maintaining their 100 percent record
at the Bernabeu when they host Real Zaragoza on Sunday.
Zaragoza are mired in a seven-match winless streak and have
only won once away from home in the league.
Barca, who have also struggled on the road with just two
away wins this season, face a difficult trip to a Mallorca side
on a high after their 4-0 win over Osasuna in the Cup.
Frank Rijkaard's side, who were held 2-2 by third division
Alcoyano in the Cup, will be without the injured Lionel Messi
while Ronaldinho is a doubt because of tendinitis in his left
The weekend's other stand-out game is the Andalucian derby
between Sevilla and Real Betis at the Sanchez Pzjuan on Sunday.
A four-match unbeaten streak has pushed Sevilla up to
eighth in the table, but they are still only five points ahead
of their city rivals, who remain in the relegation zone despite
an improvement in form under new coach Paco Chaparro.