x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Espanyol revival in full swing

It may not be immediately obvious by Spain's media coverage, but there are other Primera Liga games this weekend aside from clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

It may not be immediately obvious by Spain's media coverage, but there are other Primera Liga games this weekend aside from the El Clasico clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona. The game which should be considered second on the podium is a meeting between two of the league's form teams in one of the final Primera Liga games to be staged at Barcelona's Olympic Stadium. Espanyol, who move to a new stadium in August, host Valencia.

Adrift at the bottom of the league a month ago with just four wins from 28 games, the timing of Espanyol's stadium move appeared dreadful. It's not easy to sell season tickets when the visitors are Castellon and Girona rather than Real Madrid or Barcelona. Since then, Espanyol have won four and drawn one of their last five games to move out of the relegation zone to 16th. Espanyol still don't have a player who has scored more than four league goals, but they boast the eighth tightest defence in the league and defender David Garcia says: "We have taken half a step to safety.

"When you get out of the drop zone after such a long time it's a relief for all." Espanyol's form has delighted and infuriated fans, for their squad have barely changed all season. Nor is it the first time that the Periquitos have only started winning games in April - they've twice survived with similar late runs of form this decade. The Valencia side they meet tonight boast an even better form with five wins and two draws in their last seven games and they held Barcelona last week to retain the vital fourth place in the league.

amitten@thenational.ae