A sideways look at Spanish football
Mauricio Pochettino arrived to save Espanyol halfway through the 2008-09 season as a bearded cheeky chubster, clad permanently in the tracksuit of the team for whom he had played for eight seasons in the 1990s. Just under four years later, the poor Perico has been kicked out of Cornella, considerably slimmer, sadder and certainly a lot more stressed than before.
In taking this unfortunate action on Monday, Espanyol - bottom of the table after a home defeat to Getafe - had removed the longest serving manager at a Primera League team. This leaves Pepe Mel at Betis, Celta Vigo’s Paco Herrera and - you are never going to believe this - Real Madrid's José Mourinho as the new veterans, with all three embarking on their third seasons in charge of their teams.
In the Argentinean’s farewell address, Pochettino urged the players to show the same fighting spirit displayed that just over three years ago had lifted Espanyol out of a relegation struggle, but lamented the fact he wouldn’t be there to lead the way once again. “I’m going home to be with my family and we’ll see what happens. For now I’m going to rest and think.”
Jose celebrates pinching Mauricio's record...probably...
However, it’s going to be a tall order for the Cornella club, who can be considered decent on paper but uninterested on grass. Although Pochettino was quick to remind everyone that there is quality in the squad, there’s a distinct lack of commitment and leadership in the dressing room, with the old war horses of days gone by - think Ivan de la Peña, Raúl Tamudo and Luis García - all absent, with nobody in the current generation stepping forward to replace them.
Although the sacking saw LLL waving a fond farewell to Pochettino, the blog leapt up and down in glee at the return of Javier Aguirre, last seen in la Liga clearing his desk having been sacked by Real Zaragoza just after Christmas last season. The wonderfully unpredictable former Osasuna and Atlético Madrid coach is set to be unveiled by Espanyol on Thursday, with the club taking some time to choose between himself and Marcelino, another manager who found himself being fired last year, but by Sevilla.
And it’s Sevilla who are Espanyol’s opponents in the Copa del Rey on Wednesday night in the second leg of their last 32 tie, with a 3-1 advantage from the first leg not even the hapless Andalusians can blow. Or maybe they can. “ I don’t know why, but when we play away the team doesn’t have this ambition, this responsibility it has at home,” complained Míchel the Manager.
Six cup games were resolved on Tuesday night. The main casualties from the action were Real Sociedad, who were held to a 2-2 home draw by Córdoba, losing 4-2 on aggregate. “It was a big disappointment as we had plans to do well in the cup,” snuffled la Real boss, Philippe Montanier.
Rayo were also knocked out by lower league opponents, with Las Palmas having the better of things over two legs, but it’s unlikely that anyone at the Vallecas club will care one iota. Málaga squeezed through against third-tier Cacereño on away goals, despite losing the second leg at home 1-0. The two other sides to progress were Real Madrid and Betis, who enjoyed comfy wins against Alcoyano and Valladolid respectively.
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