Espanyol have their work cut out to prolong their first UEFA Europa League campaign thanks to a first-leg hat-trick from Wolves' striker Diogo Jota.
Espanyol have their work cut out to prolong their maiden UEFA Europa League campaign as they host fellow debutants Wolverhampton Wanderers, who took their Spanish opponents apart in the first leg at Molineux, winning 4-0 thanks chiefly to a second successive UEFA Europa League hat-trick from Portuguese striker Diogo Jota.
• Espanyol won Group H in the autumn, their only defeat – a first in 26 European games against non-Spanish opposition – coming on Matchday 6, 0-1 at home to CSKA Moskva, after qualification had already been assured. In finishing runners-up to Braga in Group K, Wolves actually accumulated more group stage points than Espanyol, 13 to 11, seven of those earned away from home.
• The first leg in Wolverhampton, Espanyol's inaugural encounter against English opposition, was dominated by the home side, who ran up their second straight 4-0 home win in the UEFA Europa League, with Jota repeating his trick of Matchday 6 against Beşiktaş to become the competition's joint top scorer. The most spectacular strike of the evening, however, belonged to another of Wolves' Portuguese contingent, Rúben Neves putting his side 2-0 up with a characteristic long-range thunderbolt. It was the heaviest European defeat ever inflicted on Espanyol.
• Wolves' only matches against a Spanish club prior to this tie came in the 1959/60 European Champion Clubs' Cup quarter-final against Espanyol's city rivals Barcelona and resulted in their heaviest UEFA competition defeats both away (0-4) and home (2-5).
• Espanyol finished seventh in the 2018/19 Spanish Liga, edging out Athletic Club on the head-to-head rule to book a return to the European stage for the first time since their appearance in the 2006/07 UEFA Cup final, which they lost on penalties to Sevilla after a 2-2 draw in Glasgow.
• The club from Catalonia, who also lost the 1987/88 UEFA Cup final on spot kicks to Bayer Leverkusen, cruised through their first two qualifying ties this term, defeating Stjarnan and Luzern, before overcoming Zorya Luhansk in the play-offs. They topped Group H ahead of second-placed Ludogorets, beating the Bulgarian champions twice (1-0 a, 6-0 h) and CSKA away (2-0) as well as drawing both games against Ferencváros (1-1 h, 2-2 a).
• The Matchday 6 loss at home to CSKA ended Espanyol's run of 25 European games unbeaten against non-Spanish opposition (W19 D6) and was their first continental defeat in regulation play since Schalke beat them home (2-1) and away (3-0) in the 2005/06 UEFA Cup third round. The defeat in Wolverhampton made it two on the trot.
• They have won 11 of their last 13 European home games, scoring at least three goals in nine of them and 39 in total, but in this season's group stage they collected just four of their 11 points in Barcelona.
• Espanyol have won four of the five UEFA competition ties in which they have lost the first leg away, their only elimination having come at the hands of Schalke in that 2005/06 UEFA Cup meeting. However, they have never previously needed to overturn a deficit of more than two goals at home, their biggest comebacks having come in the 1987/88 UEFA Cup semi-final against Club Brugge (0-2 a, 3-0 h) and the 1998 UEFA Intertoto Cup second round against Brno (3-5 a, 2-0 h).
• In their first season after promotion to the Premier League, Wolves finished seventh in 2018/19 to qualify for European competition for the first time since they lost in the 1980/81 UEFA Cup first round to PSV Eindhoven.
• Wolves began this UEFA Europa League campaign in late July and went on to win all six qualifying matches, knocking out Crusaders, Pyunik and, in the play-offs, Torino. They lost their opening group game, 0-1 at home to eventual section winners Braga, but took maximum points off Beşiktaş and Slovan Bratislava as well as drawing 3-3 in northern Portugal.
• The West Midlanders' best European experience by some distance came in the inaugural UEFA Cup of 1971/72, when they went all the way to the final before losing 3-2 on aggregate to English rivals Tottenham Hotspur.
• Wolves won their first five European away fixtures this season – against Crusaders (4-1), Pyunik (4-0) and Torino (3-2) in qualifying and at Beşiktaş (1-0) and Slovan (2-1) in the group stage – before drawing at Braga on Matchday 5. They were also unbeaten away from home in the 1971/72 UEFA Cup (W3 D3).
• Wolves have won both of the previous UEFA knockout ties in which they have established a first-leg lead at home, most recently in this season's second qualifying round when they beat Crusaders 4-1 away after a 2-0 win at Molineux.
UEFA Europa League squad changes
In: Leandro Cabrera (Getafe), Raúl de Tomás (Benfica), Adrián Embarba (Rayo Vallecano)
Out: Sébastien Corchia (Sevilla, loan), Esteban Granero (Marbella), Lluís López (Tenerife, loan), Javier Puado
In: Leonardo Campana (Barcelona SC), Daniel Podence (Olympiacos), Renat Dadaşov
Out: Ryan Bennett (Leicester City, loan), Harry Burgoyne (Shrewsbury), Patrick Cutrone (Fiorentina, loan), Jesús Vallejo (end of loan)
Links and trivia
• Three members of Espanyol's squad have been affiliated to English clubs – Facundo Ferreyra (Newcastle 2015), Jonathan Calleri (West Ham 2016/17) and Bernardo Espinosa (Middlesbrough 2016/17).
• Three Wolves players have operated in Spain – Jonny (Celta Vigo 2012–18), Adama Traoré (Barcelona 2013–14) and Raúl Jiménez (Atlético Madrid 2014/15).
• Espinosa and Traoré were Premier League team-mates at Middlesbrough in 2016/17.
• Substitute Diogo Jota's hat-trick for Wolves against Beşiktaş on Matchday 6, with goals in the 58th, 63rd and 69th minutes, was the third fastest in the history of the UEFA Europa League, group stage to final. He is the first player to score a hat-trick on consecutive UEFA Europa League Matchdays, although Klaas-Jan Huntelaar managed trebles on successive appearances for Schalke in 2011/12, on Matchdays 8 and 10, missing the game in between.
• Espanyol and Wolves were among six UEFA Europa League group stage debutants this season; only one of the others, LASK, made it through to the knockout phase, Ferencváros, Olexandriya and Wolfsberg all suffering elimination.
• Espanyol's record in two UEFA penalty shoot-outs is W0 L2:
2-3 v Bayer Leverkusen, 1987/88 UEFA Cup final
1-3 v Sevilla, 2006/07 UEFA Cup final
• Wolves have yet to feature in a UEFA penalty shoot-out.
• Abelardo Fernández was named as Espanyol's third coach of the season on 27 December, succeeding David Gallego and Pablo Machín. A Spanish international defender with 54 caps, he also won 1992 Olympic gold in Barcelona, where he later shone for the local giants at the Camp Nou, winning the Spanish Liga and Copa del Rey twice plus the 1997 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup. His coaching path, like his playing career, began at hometown team Sporting Gijón, where he was head coach from May 2014 to January 2017. He subsequently spent 18 months in charge of another former club, Alavés, before stepping down in May 2019.
• A former goalkeeper who was in Portugal's UEFA EURO 2008 squad but never won a senior cap, Nuno Espírito Santo was mostly a back-up during his playing career but as a manager he is very much at the forefront, having emerged as a studious, progressive coach during spells at Valencia, Porto and, since May 2017, Wolves. He first made his mark by taking Portuguese provincial club Rio Ave to two cup finals and into Europe before shining in Spain during an 18-month stint at Mestalla. He led Wolves into the Premier League in his first season and into the UEFA Europa League in his second.