Espanyol v Athletic Bilbao preview
Bielsa returns to Espanyol looking for first Bilbao win
By Steve Harrison - @The2020
Last Updated: 10/09/11 12:23pm
A season of promise ended in disappointment for Espanyol last year as they finished short of a spot in Europe despite spending much of the season in the top six.
Young manager Mauricio Pochettino built a squad which seemingly run out of steam in the last few months of the season, and despite a summer of upheaval as key players departed, the philosophy has remained in tact.
A number of bright signings have been bought to the club in the off-season, and despite the late departure of key striker Pablo Osvaldo the feeling around the club is that a place in Europe is not beyond them.
By coincindence this weekend's opponents, Athletic Bilbao, were the side who took sixth spot and the final European place during the 2010/11 season.
Athletic started the season with a point at home to newly promoted Rayo Vallecano, much to the disappointment of the fans. They will be looking to kick-start their season at Estadi Cornellà-El Prat, although their away form last season was all denied them a top four spot with just six wins from their 19 trips out of the Basque region.
Marcelo Biesla, whose only previous stint in Spain was as Espanyol manager, was appointed in charge at Athletic during the off-season and will find himself under immediate pressure to better last season's finish; but with Fernando Llorente staying at the San Mames, many believe this is well within the club's reach.
Defensively there are still questions raised about Athletic Bilbao and it is certainly an area they will need to improve on, and for this weekend's clash they'll take hope from their defence facing an Espanyol side who have needed to adjust to life without Osvaldo.
Pochettino will also be hoping his defence make improvements on last year's efforts and will be looking for his side to pick up their first points of the season after a 1-0 defeat at Real Mallorca on the opening day.
Best Bet: Over 2.5 goals - evens