La Liga Review looks ahead to Saturday's remaining fixture.
Espanyol, with just one win in their last eight games - losing the other seven - host an improving Valencia under Ronald Koeman. The home side have almost undone all of their good work in the first half of the season and now find themselves outside of the top four and just four points above today's opposition...
Valverde might have fancied his side to start their recovery against a struggling Valencia who have suffered a miserable run of form over the winter. However, the visitors are steadily improving - unbeaten in four - and their midweek draw against Barcelona at the Camp Nou in the Copa Del Rey was testimony to a rediscovery of the cohesion and spirit that defined the Valencia of old.
Espanyol's Luis Garcia is unfazed by Valencia's apparent recent improvement however and is confident that his side can do the double over Valencia, building upon their 3-2 victory at the Mestalla earlier in the season. He said: "Beating Valencia would strengthen our morale and would allow us to move forward again. They are a strong team and did well against Barcelona, when they scored with their only real opportunity."
Valencia represent the kind of defensive unit that Espanyol have found difficult to break down this season, but Luis Garcia believes that the return of Ivan De La Pena will help his team find away past Valencia's organization. He said: "We are a team that attacks really well when we steal the ball close to the opposition area, but when De La Pena is not there we find it more difficult, so his return is a boost."
De La Pena and Pablo Zabaleta return to the Espanyol squad after missing last weekend's defeat at Deportivo through suspension and both should start. Captain Raul Tamudo and defender Mari Lacruz remain sidelined through injury.
Valencia's preparations may have been somewhat hampered after the visitors were forced to stay in Barcelona after Wednesday's match because fog prevented their flight home from taking off. Ivan Helguera and David Villa will return from suspension but Fernando Morientes, Alexis and Miguel are all facing late injury tests and are doubtful.