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Espanyol overcome problems to win curtain raiser

SoccerNews in La Liga 30 Aug 2008

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Espanyol shrugged off the loss of departing first team stars Albert Riera and Pablo Zabaleta to defeat Valladolid 1-0 on Saturday in the curtain raiser of the 2008/09 Spanish league season.

Espanyol's Luis Garcia, still recovering from the disappointment of being dropped from the Spain squad shortly before Euro 2008, had the honour of scoring the first goal of the new season a minute after the break.

It proved enough as Espanyol won their first league match since mid-March while new coach Bartolome Marquez enjoyed a winning start in his first match in charge.

Espanyol went into the match trying to reshuffle their team after deciding to sell Riera and Zabaleta despite having little time to find replacements.

Spanish international Riera is poised to join Liverpool while Zabaleta, part of the Argentina side that won Olympic gold, is bound for Manchester City in an eight-million-euro move.

Garcia was tipped to leave too but a move to Benfica fell through and his goal fires Espanyol top of the table although you sense they won't be there for long.

In Saturday's late match Valencia host Real Mallorca at the Mestalla aiming to get their painful Super Cup defeat to Real Madrid out of their system.

Valencia ran in 10th last season and new coach Unai Emery has the task of trying to get the team back among the big boys.

Reigning champions Real start their title defence at Deportivo La Coruna in Sunday's late match.

Brazilian international Robinho has spent most of this week angling for a move to Chelsea and coach Bernd Schuster confirmed he had left the winger out of the travelling party.

“I made the decision. He's under pressure from his entourage and not fit to play,” said Schuster.”He's got too much on his mind at the moment.”

Real are bidding for a third straight title but have not won at the Riazor since the 1991/92 season.

Barcelona are also away on Sunday travelling to promoted Numancia in Pep Guardiola's first league match in charge.

Last season Barca were a soft touch on their travels and Guardiola wants that to change.

“The opponents, pitch and referee are not important we just have to win,” said Guardiola.

Sevilla and Racing Santander, fifth and sixth last season, face off on Sunday in one of the games of the weekend.

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