Abelardo Fernández debuts as Espanyol coach against Barca

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Abelardo Fernández already said he was something of a “masochist” at his presentation as Espanyol coach.

The Spaniard, who is known by his first name, will get an opportunity to inflict pain on himself today when Espanyol hosts Barcelona in his club debut.

It will be a derby of the best team in the Spanish league against the worst. Barcelona leads the competition by two points ahead of Real Madrid. Espanyol is in last place and has already fired two coaches this season.

“It is not easy to arrive and take over a team like Espanyol. I am 100 per cent dedicated to turn this situation around,” Abelardo said on Monday. “Maybe I am a bit of a masochist. I don’t know. I love the challenge.”

He now has the challenge of helping an Espanyol side, whose are called “parakeets”, that has only two wins in 18 games and has yet to win a match at home in nine tries.

Espanyol’s collapse came after one of its best campaigns in recent years last season when it qualified for the Europa League with a seventh-place finish. But the club let coach Joan “Rubi” Ferrer and top scorer Borja Iglesias leave for Real Betis.

The 49-year-old Abelardo has shown he can take a team that appears to be broken and mould it into a competitive side. He helped Sporting Gijón earn promotion in 2015 and stay a season in the first division. He later took over Alavés midway through 2017-18 and ensured it escaped a relegation fight. He was with Alavés until the end of last season. “The important thing is to recover our confidence,” Abelardo said. “I was lucky enough to be able to get Sporting and Alavés out of difficult situations. I promise that we will compete, not that we will get results.

“(Former Spain coach) Luis Aragonés said you have to ‘win, win, win and win all over again,’ but my philosophy is compete, compete, compete, and compete all over again.”

Abelardo Fernandez. PHOTO: AP