Evening all! Week 15 of La Liga gets underway on this Friday evening with Espanyol and Sevilla both in desperate need of the three points. Victory for the home side could move them out of the bottom three, while Sevilla could move as high as seventh with the three points.
Espanyol: Alvarez; Forlin, Moreno, Colotto, Delgado; Mata, Verdu, Rodriguez, Wakaso; Stuani, Fonte
Sevilla: Rodriguez; Fazio, Navarro, Spahic, Coke; Navas, Perotti, Rakitic, Reyes, Kondogbia; Diawara
Tonight will also see former Mexico boss Javier Aguirre take charge of Espanyol for the first time. Mauricio Pochettino was let go from his position at the club on Monday and now Aguirre has been given the task of keeping the club in Spain's top division. He will be desperate to get off to a winning start.
As mentioned, the two sides have already clashed in the Copa del Rey this season. The last match came at the end of November with Sevilla recording a 3-0 win at the Estadi Corneli-El Prat. But we are back to the bread and butter in the league with both of these sides keen to record some points ahead of the winter break.
The corresponding clash in the league last season ended in a 1-1 draw, while the points were also shared at the Estadio Ramon in January. But Espanyol enter the match off the back of an impressive performance in their 0-0 draw against Granada.
Sevilla’s performance last time out, meanwhile, would have worried the managerial team and supporters alike. It was as poor a display as I have seen from them in recent seasons and a couple of defeats could see them edge towards the bottom of the table. But those concerns would be calmed with an impressive performance and three points this evening.
Despite improvement last time out, there is no doubt that Espanyol have struggled this season. They did not pick up their first point of the campaign until drawing with Athletic Bilbao in mid-September. Meanwhile, their first league win did not arrive until late November when they beat Rayo Vallecano.
Their second and final league win thus far arrived away to Real Sociedad, but they have now failed to win in any of their last five matches in all competitions. They travel to Real Madrid and Barcelona in the next couple of weeks and you just get the feeling that they need to start picking up some points.
Sevilla, meanwhile, impressed in the early stages of the season with victories over Getafe and Real Madrid, before losing to Barcelona. It has been hit and miss since then with back-to-back wins interrupted by defeat to Real Zaragoza. They have also managed just one win in their last five league matches, but they do have a run of winnable fixtures ahead.
Following this evening’s match they host Mallorca in the league next Saturday before travelling to Real Sociedad before the winter break. January is also fairly kind to them, with fixtures against the likes of Osasuna, Getafe and Granada.
Here we go then. Handshakes? Check. Flags exchanged? Check. Passionate home crowd? Check. Both sides are in desperate need of the points this evening. I am backing a draw. I just cannot see a way how Sevilla win this match with their injury situation.
Espanyol get us underway on this mild evening in Spain. You just get the feeling that the first goal - if there indeed is one - will be all-important in this match. Sevilla enter the match as favourites, but make no mistake they have struggled in recent weeks.
Decent start from the away side with Perotti and Ivan Rakitic
both enjoying early touches of the ball in midfield. The first long pass of the match searches out the run of Jesus Navas, but the midfielder cannot collect and play is restarted with a home throw. Meanwhile, the home fans are in good voice this evening.
Javier Aguirre watches on as his side struggle for possession in the early stages of the match. The former Mexico boss was appointed by the club earlier this week and will attempt to pull another side out of the relegation zone. Half-chance for the away side as Reyes finds the run of Perotti, but Alvarez is on hand to collect.
The pressure remains from Sevilla with Reyes and Baba Diawara combining outside the Espanyol box. However, the former is stopped in his tracks as he is felled by Hector Moreno. The free kick is given by Perotti, but Juan Forlin rises highest to clear the danger.
CHANCE! Best opportunity of the match falls to Sevilla as Spahic dances into the penalty area before firing an effort at goal, but Alvarez makes the low save. The pressure continues as the ball drops in the penalty area, but Verdu manages to hook clear of the danger zone.
Another half-chance comes the way of the away side as Rakitic whips a dangerous cross into the penalty area, but Colotto beats Reyes to the ball and clears the danger. The home side attempt to relieve the pressure with a long pass to Rui Fonte, but Coke immediately wins back possession.
The match has just settled in the past few minutes with Espanyol enjoying more possession of the ball. However, they have yet to offer up any real threat to the Sevilla goal. Stuani appears to be extremely isolated with Fonte struggling to stay in touching distance with the striker.
PENALTY TO ESPANYOL: The home side are awarded a penalty as Verdu is felled in the area under the challenge of Fernando Navarro. The referee was in no doubt and pointed to the spot almost immediately. Verdu will take the penalty.
GOAL! Espanyol 1-0 Sevilla (Verdu)
It's as cool a penalty as you will ever see as Verdu chips his effort straight down the middle, leaving Lopez falling to one side. The blue touch paper has been well and truly lit. Espanyol strike first on their own patch.
In truth, Sevilla had certainly looked the more dangerous in the opening stages of the match. I know it is a cliché but the phrase goals change games could not be more true. Suddenly the home players have an extra yard as they attack with pace and purpose.
Sevilla attempt to respond immediately as they force two corners in quick succession, but the home side's defence remains strong to clear the danger. Meanwhile, Spahic heads over at the second time of asking. The home supporters are really letting their voices known at the moment and it is feeding onto their players.
Period of frustration for Sevilla at the moment as they give away a host of free kicks in quick succession. However, the home side cannot take advantage of the advanced areas. The match is so delicately poised with 19 minutes on the clock.
End-to-end football at the moment as Rui Fonte and Stuani threaten to extend the home side's lead with a couple of shots from distance, while Reyes almost collects a Perotti pass down the other end. I would be absolutely astounded if there were not more goals in this match.
Sevilla have really upped the tempo in the past few moments as they continue to commit numbers to each attack. Wakaso wins a free kick just outside the area for the away side, but Perotti's set piece is poor and hits the first man.
PENALTY TO SEVILLA: Sevilla are awarded a penalty as Coke is felled in the penalty area by Stuani. What a turn up! Rakitic will take the spot kick.
GOAL! Espanyol 1-1 Sevilla (Rakitic)
Rakitic levels the match at 1-1 as he strokes his penalty into the bottom corner. In truth, it was a bit of a nothing challenge from Stuani, but the referee was in no doubt and pointed to the spot much to the astonishment of the home players.
We have just seen another replay of the Sevilla penalty incident. It was a poor poor decision from the referee. The ball was whipped into the penalty area and Coke hit the deck under the slightest of tugs by Stuani. It was the kind of challenge that you would see 50 times a game.
Slightly scrappy period to the match at the moment with both sides giving away a host of free kicks. The latest comes to the home side as Verdu strikes an effort from 40 yards, but the wall blocks the danger. Meanwhile, Stuani slices horribly wide moments later.
There is sometimes a danger that these Friday night matches in Spain can be slightly dull. But that is certainly not the case this evening. It really is end-to-end football at the moment with both sides going in search of the next goal. Sevilla look the more likely.
Half-chance for Sevilla as Rakitic whips a free kick into the penalty area, but Moreno remains strong to clear the danger. The pressure remains as Navas drives towards the goal-line, but Colotto is on hand to clear for a corner. Relentless from the away side at the moment.
Espanyol finally relieve the pressure as Wakaso wins a free kick in his own half. However, the ball is pumped straight down field and Stuani is unable to win the aerial battle against the Sevilla defence. The home side really have to keep the ball better with little over 10 minutes of the half remaining.
Wakaso continues to do a job for Espanyol as he carries the ball 30 yards into the Sevilla half before winning another free kick. However, possession is lost almost immediately, allowing Navas to attack the home side's defence, but he just cannot get a shot away.
There is a real bite to this match at the moment as each team crowd the referee following each free kick decision. This time Colotto picks up a yellow card for the home side, but once more there was not a great deal in it. This has not been the best of matches for the referee thus far.
RED CARD: Oh my word. It is all happening here. Reyes is given his marching orders by the referee for a second yellow card. It is not yet clear what in fact happened. We will keep you updated. But the Sevilla staff are far from happy. Both teams are surrounding the referee.
What the referee has seen there I am not sure. Reyes took the free kick and appeared to call for a corner, speaking his way into the referee's book. Oh, in fact it appears that the Spaniard took the set piece without permission from the referee.
Well, this has been a quite staggering half of football. Two penalties and a red card for Reyes for ignoring the referee and taking a free kick without permission. Just when Sevilla get back into the match it all goes pear-shaped. I need the half-time break as much as the players I think!
Sevilla are keeping possession as we enter the final minute of the half. That sending off has just shocked both sides and not a great deal has happened since then. Surely Espanyol will rally in the second period. This is a glorious chance for them to move out of the bottom three.
Another penalty shout for the home side as Stuani tumbles in the area, but the referee shakes his head and play is resumed. Meanwhile, the fourth official indicates that we will play an additional two minutes of football at the end of the half.
Espanyol have taken control of possession in the past few moments with Verdu and Rodriguez enjoying touches in the middle of midfield. But neither has side has mustered a shooting chance since the red card incident.
Espanyol 1-1 Sevilla
Well, that was certainly not what I expected. Two penalties and a red card in a quite sensational opening half of football. The referee has had a bit of a horror show thus far with, in my opinion, two of the major three decisions incorrect.
Espanyol took the lead after 13 minutes when Verdu converted from the penalty spot, but a spot kick for Sevilla levelled the scores after 24 minutes. Sevilla continued to look the more likely in the latter stages of the half, until Reyes was given his marching orders.
Following some confusion, we now have an explanation of what indeed the referee saw. It is understood that Reyes' decision to take a quick free kick without permission was seen as a bookable offence, adding to the one the winger had already received. It was soft, but you can see the reasoning.
In terms of the result, as it stands Sevilla would move up a place into 10th spot in the table. Meanwhile, Espanyol would also jump one place to 19th. Let's take a look at some statistics from the opening half of football.
Sevilla dominated the possession with 69%, but both sides have managed just three attempts at goal. It remains to be seen whether the away side will make a change at the interval. They do have Alvaro Negredo
back on the bench and you have to think that he will be introduced at some point.
Here we go then. Sevilla get us underway in the second period. No changes for either side at the break. Let's hope that the second 45 is as good as the opening half. Stay with us for the entirety of the action. I have a feeling that you will not want to miss it.
Explosive start to the second half by the home side as Wakaso picks up possession before driving into the Sevilla box and finding Stuani, but the striker just cannot sort his feet out and the danger is cleared by Fazio. It's good to see that the tempo from the first half has not stopped!
Another half-chance for the home side as Wakaso strikes an effort from distance, but Lopez is on hand to collect the danger. You just get the feeling that Sevilla need to get Navas into the match. The Spanish winger has not had a kick thus far. For a player of his quality it just has to be better. His team need him now more than ever.
Sevilla just cannot keep possession at the moment as they struggle to gain any real foothold in the second period. The pressure remains from the home side, but Stuani is isolated in attack and therefore clear chances have been at a premium.
Slightly scrappy period to the match at the moment with both sides struggling to put any real series of passes together. Espanyol, much like Sevilla in the first half, are making most of the running, but neither has been able to fashion a clear chance in the match thus far.
Again it's a sighter for the home side as Verdu strikes from outside the penalty area, but Lopez watches it over his own crossbar. It has been that type of second period thus far, a few strikes here and there but nothing too substantial.
Espanyol have really upped the tempo in the past few moments with Fonte and Verdu just starting to find the target with their searching passes. They force two corners in quick succession, but Fazio has been a rock thus far and clears the danger. Little over 30 minutes of football remaining and the score remains level at 1-1.
Sevilla continue to drop deeper and deeper as they attempt to hold onto what they have. But it is inviting the home side onto them and the crowd are responding. Meanwhile, Javier Aguirre is preparing to make his first change of the evening.
The change is indeed made with Fonte being replaced by Simao
. Let's not forget that the latter is a Portuguese international and was once regarded as one of the best wingers in Europe. He could impress his new manager with a starring display in the final 30 minutes or so.
GOAL! Espanyol 2-1 Sevilla (Simao)
Oh my word. What was I just saying? Simao has 30 minutes to impress his manager? Well he needed the best part of 30 seconds as he heads past Lopez from close range with his first touch. What an introduction.
In fairness it had been coming. It wasn't as if Espanyol were peppering the Sevilla goal with strikes, but they have certainly been the better side in the second period and the pressure was growing. Where do the away side go from here? It would be a catastrophic defeat.
A quick look at the sideline and Negredo can be seen preparing to enter the field. That is no great surprise. But his team are really struggling at the moment. Just a reminder that three points for Espanyol would move them out of the relegation zone.
Sevilla do indeed make the change as Diawara is replaced by Negredo. Can the striker come to his side's rescue once more? He has done it enough times in the past. But the pressure and tempo remains with the home side as they go forward in search of their third and what would almost certainly be the winner.
Half-chance for Espanyol to extend their lead as Wakaso finds Simao in the penalty area, but the winger's shot is blocked by Fazio. The resulting corner is taken by Wakaso, but Navarro is on hand to clear the danger. Little over 20 minutes of football remaining and the home side lead 2-1.
Espanyol make their second change of the evening as Samuele Longo replaces Stuani. That will certainly give the home side more movement in the attacking third. The match will be stretched in the final stages as Sevilla go in search of the leveller.
Sevilla make their second change of the evening as Perotti is replaced by Rabello. The youngster scored on his first-team debut last week and how his side need him to produce in this match. But there is no sign of a comeback with Espanyol dictating the match. Little under 20 minutes of football remaining.
Not a great deal happening at the moment in terms of attacking pressure. Sevilla have had more of the ball in the past couple of minutes, but have been unable to feed Negredo in an attacking area. But you just get the sense that there is another goal in this match.
The pressure remains from the home side as they force two free kicks in quick succession outside the penalty area. The second results in a long-range strike from Rakitic, but Alvarez gets down well to make a vital save.
The pressure is really on the home side at the moment with Rakitic and Navas both forcing the issue in wide areas, but it just will not go in as another effort passes the post. Espanyol are doing themselves no favours, however, as they continue to struggle to keep possession.
Just a reminder that as it stands Espanyol would move from bottom of the table to 17th position. Not a bad start for Javier Aguirre. But I say that with caution as we still have the best part of 10 minutes to play. And the home side just cannot keep hold of the ball at the moment.
Half-chance comes the way of Espanyol as Verdu strikes an effort from outside the penalty area, but it just curls away from goal at the vital moment and play will be restarted with a Sevilla goal kick. Meanwhile, change for Sevilla as Manu replaces Kondogbia.
CHANCE! Golden opportunity to secure the points for Espanyol as Verdu finds himself with the ball at his feet inside the Sevilla penalty area. But he can only fire his effort over the crossbar. Meanwhile, the home side make their third and final change as Wakaso is replaced by Raul Rodriguez.
Sevilla continue to pass and probe in the Espanyol half, but they are really struggling for invention, as they have been all evening. Navas had been non-existent and the early loss of Reyes as another obvious blow to their chances. But there is still time in this match.
Another opportunity comes and goes for Sevilla as they fire a high free kick into the penalty area, but it comes back with interest as Forlin thumps the danger clear. Little over two minutes of normal time remaining and Espanyol still lead. What a result this would be for the home side.
The fourth official indicates that we will play an additional three minutes of football at the end of the half. Sevilla fire another free kick into the penalty area, but once more the danger is cleared.
GOAL! Espanyol 2-2 Sevilla (Negredo)
Oh my word! Sevilla level in stoppage time as Navas stands up a cross to the far post and Negredo thumps his header into the back of the net. He has saved a point for his side on the most dramatic of nights.
The look on Javier Aguirre's face was that of pure disgust. His side have thrown away two points here. We are entering the final minute of stoppage time and Espanyol have possession in their own half. Only a late, late show could win this now.
Espanyol 2-2 Sevilla
Wow. What an evening of football. Espanyol came within a whisker of moving out of the relegation zone, but a last-minute header from Negredo spoiled the party. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for the action and join us for more La Liga football from 4.30pm tomorrow. Until then!