A look at Saturday’s visitorsWe welcome Spanish side RCD Espanyol to Madejski Stadium on Saturday for a 3pm kick-off – it isn’t every day that we have a Primera Liga side in town.
Therefore we have gathered some background information on the Catalan side to give you a flavour of our visitors this weekend.
Who are they?
Reial Club Deportiu Espanyol de Barcelona – that’s Espanyol to you and me – can rightly claim to be ‘more than a football club’. As well as football, they also run highly successful basketball, hockey, volleyball and baseball teams for men and women.
It is a club steeped in history, and indeed their name is a case in point. The side had been known as ‘Español’ until the abdication of Alfonso XIII in 1931, when they changed to the Catalan spelling of the name. This was changed back after the Spanish Civil War, but they took on the moniker ‘Espanyol’ once more in 1995. The title ‘Real’ – meaning ‘royal’ – was granted by the king in 1912 and explains the crown on the club crest.
The club have a lot of British links in their founding fathers. Scotsman Ted Garry was one of the club’s first managers when he joined the club in 1922, and Englishmen Jack Greenwell and Harry Lowe also led the team in the interwar period.
Espanyol play their home fixtures at Estadi Cornellà-El Prat, a stunning 40,500 all-seater stadium built in 2000, which is the eighth home in the club’s long history. But it is one of their early homes that gives them their nickname. When the side moved to Estadio de Sarriá in 1923, the trees all around the stadium were said to be home to parakeets, which is why to this day Espanyol are known as ‘Periquitos’.
A 10th-place La Liga finish last season represented a decent season, but they will be aiming higher when their league season kicks off against Getafe on Saturday 23rd August.
What have they won?
In the football stakes, they inevitably have to live in the shadow of near neighbours FC Barcelona. Their trophy cabinet at still glistens proudly though – in particular because the club have won the Copa del Rey on four occasions, most recently in 2006.
That feat landed them a UEFA Cup spot in 2006/07, and they managed the undesirable (and unprecedented) feat of not losing a 90-minute match in the competition but not lifting the trophy. Instead in was fellow Spanish side Sevilla that lifted the cup, triumphing in the final at Hampden Park.
The Catalan club are currently having to compensate for the loss of two key players this summer. Goalkeeper Kiko Casilla was lured to Real Madrid (and will hope to replace near-namesake Iker Casillas after his summer departure), while all-action Uruguayan Christian Stuani will be lining up in the Sky Bet Championship next season in Middlesbrough colours.
However there is still no shortage of talent in the team. Vice-captain Héctor Moreno is a veteran of two World Cups with Mexico, while the rest of the squad is littered with former Spain youth international players. Sergio González, formerly a midfielder for Espanyol and Deportivo La Coruña, currently manages the team.
Three players have experience playing in England – Colombian forward Felipe Caicedo managed limited game-time during a three-year spell with Manchester City, Thievy Bifouma had a brief loan stint at West Bromwich Albion, and José Cañas was a Swansea City player during the 2013/14 campaign.
Few players from Espanyol’s history are more revered that Raúl Tamudo, who featured 389 times for the club over 14 seasons before leaving in 2010 and making him the club’s leading appearance-maker of all time.
Fourth on that list is current Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino, who was a teammate of Tamudo’s during two separate spells over the course of a decade – after retiring from playing in 2006, he returned to manage the side in 2009 as he made the breakthrough in management.
One name that won’t be forgotten anytime soon is that of Daniel Jarque – Espanyol’s number 21 shirt is retired in his memory. The homegrown captain had been at the Catalan side for 14 years as an academy player and pro, and tragically died after suffering a heart attack at the age of 26. ‘No t’oblidem’ reads a banner in his memory, which is displayed regularly at the Estadi Cornellà-El Prat, and where the 21st minute is still reserved for a minute’s applause.
• Tickets – save money and avoid the queues by buying in advance! Adult tickets are available from just £10 – click here for full ticket info.
• Matchday arrangements – need to know about buses and parking, or other matchday information? Just click here for a guide.
• Programme – you can get your edition of The Royal in and around Madejski Stadium for just £1.50.