2021 will be remembered, in the memory of Espanyol fans, as the year in which the club returned to its natural habitat, the First Division. As was the case in 1963, 1970, 1990, and 1994, the white-and-blue ensemble returned to the top flight after a course in Second Hell. A bitter tragedy that is already history for a club that closes the year facing its 86th participation in the highest category of Spanish football.
The balance of 2021 can be considered satisfactory for Espanyol, as the club has not only met the primary goal, the promotion, but has taken advantage of the inertia of last year to return to position in a comfortable position in Primera. The white-and-blues are closer to Europe (six points) than the descent (eight), after a first round where they have shown two quite uneven faces: one of quite solvent at home (20 points) and one another of poor strength at home (three).
Espanyol closes the year with 17 wins, 12 draws and 12 defeats. Charisma that changes a lot if you look at the matches played as a local (13 wins by four draws and four defeats) and as a visitor (four wins, eight draws and eight defeats). Improving away from home will be one of the main outstanding subjects of the white-and-blues in 2022.
Despite the impact of the pandemic, which has had effects on the health of several players and members of the coaching staff as well as in the pockets of the club, the Spanish club has managed to come out well enough financially from a year that has passed bill to all professional football clubs. Despite presenting the first losses of the Chen Yansheng era, Espanyol has managed to reduce its net debt from 46.4 to 20.3 million euros. An almost anecdotal figure, considering that in 2015, the year before the arrival of the Chinese businessman in the shareholding of the club, it rose to 134 million. Espanyol has returned to Primera healthier than ever – thanks in large part to the capital increase approved in the summer of 38 million – a circumstance that has allowed it to retain its main stars.
Vicente Moreno has managed to find a balance between a defensive block that has shown few concessions behind and an attack that, when in shape, has nothing to envy to that of most teams in the category: 34 goals and 20 assists have signed between Raúl de Tomás (19 goals and 4 assists), Puado (11 and 5) and Embarba (4 and 11) throughout this 2021. The fifth promotion is signed by the coach of Massanassa, in the same way that Heriberto Herrera, Rafael Iriondo, Juanjo Díaz and José Antonio Camacho put theirs on the team’s previous return trips to Primera.
The return to Cornellà-El Prat
The pandemic caused that between March 1, 2020 and August 21, 2021 no spectators could attend Cornellà-El Prat to accompany the team. Espanyol had to face all the way to Segona with empty stands, but with the push of their people it has shown that it can become a very difficult team to overcome.
Vicente Moreno’s team is showing itself as one of the best venues in the category on its return to Primera. The RCDE Stadium is once again a stronghold, as evidenced by the visit of the leader, Real Madrid, who took from Cornellà-El Prat the only defeat recorded in this first round. Atlético de Madrid also suffered bravely, needing a disproportionate amount of extra time to prevail in the 99th minute. Real Sociedad, Athletic and Villarreal could not find a way to leave with the three points, a sign that the Spanish team knows how to compete against rivals with budgets and staff designed to compete for European places. Approved with a note in 2021, now Espanyol will have to define, from 2022, where it wants to go. The quiet area should not be the last stop, but the first step to dreaming of higher milestones.
Mestalla, last appointment of the year
Espanyol will close the year looking for their first home victory in this league with this Friday’s visit to Mestalla (4.15pm, M. LaLiga), a stadium where they have not won since 2007. Covid positives condition a match between two teams separated by five points. Seven have already been detected in the white-and-blue squad and five in the Valencia squad, although it is not ruled out that the figure may increase in the next few hours. Gayá, Marcos André and Diakhaby are some of those affected by the Valencian group. Those of José Bordalás arrive in a row, with three consecutive victories, and have not lost a game since October 27.