Over the weekend I was watching the televised 1-1 draw between Espanol and Barcelona on Saturday. Espanol are the 'other' team from Barcelona and it occurred to me that I'd never seen them play so well...It was a derby, of course, but then I remembered the pathetic way they had surrendered to lowly Valladolid 0-1 on the first day of the season. So I checked out their other results and some surprising things seemed to have happened in the last 3 months.
How can it be that a team that has beaten Madrid, Valencia and Sevilla this season, can fail to topple the relative fodder such as Valladolid, Murcia, Recreativo and Betis?
Rather like Man. City, Espanol are always looked at as being the poor half of their town, the team that are always considered second best. So is it that the inferior tag gives their team a fighting spirit? Is that why they seem to raise their game and try harder against the Big Teams. So it occurred to me that maybe there's some kind of special perverse relationship between some teams and their more illustrious rivals? And with all of us anxiously searching for the reasons of our topsy-turvy season, perhaps some of the blame should be directed at our opponents as well as the usual Pards, the players and the ref.
So investigating further and turning nearer to home, I had a look at the stats for Burnley, the latest team to win at the Valley. Of their 10 away games the only ones they have lost were the two against Scunthorpe in 18th place and Cardiff in 20th and of the 5 games against top half opposition they haven't lost a single one.
Plymouth's another one. Of their 5 games away against top half teams they have won 3 and narrowly lost the other two by 3-2. Of the 4 away games against clubs in the bottom 6, they have only won 1, with 2 draws and a defeat.
Sheffield United also perform better against top teams. Four home games this time against teams in the top 8 and 3 wins and a narrow 0-1 defeat. Five games against the rest and not a single victory..
So what of Cardiff, tomorrows opponents? More bad news for Pards it appears, as in the 5 games against top half opposition in front of their Welsh fans, they've won twice and lost the others but only by a single goal in all three games. The other four home games against the lower half and they haven't won a single game.....
However, their most frequent result is a draw with 8 out of 18 games ending all square and after 5 fizzy games during midweek they have yet to win...