ESPANYOL - BARCELONA

Pochettino will be VIP guest at Espanyol-Barcelona derby

The former Tottenham Hotspur manager was the last man in charge at Espanyol to have beaten Barça in LaLiga, and will take his seat this weekend.

Pochettino, en un partido con el Tottenham.
ANDREJ ISAKOVIC AFP

As the new year welcomes us with a LaLiga Catalonian derby between Espanyol and Barcelona, there is much interest focused on the two benches. Both the home, Abelardo Fernández, and away, Ernesto Valverde, dugouts have men with questions to answer, but this game will also see attention drawn to a man in the VIP boxes above.

Poch back at Espanyol

Mauricio Pochettino, who was recently fired by Tottenham Hotpsur, was seen as a favourite to replace Pablo Machín, who lost his job late December. Instead it was Abelardo who stepped in, and so the Argentine will take his spot in more comfortable surroundings at the Cornellà-El Prat.

This is the first visit of Pochettino since he left the Premier League club around a month and a half ago, and means he will watch a match with which he has a special bond. Just as Abelardo is about to do, he debuted on the Espanyol bench at home against Barça, on 21 January 2009 in the Copa del Rey. It ended goalless.

Recent euphoria | Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino, Ben Davies, Fernando Llorente and Erik Lamela celebrate after the Ajax UCL semi-final.

Recent euphoria | Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino, Ben Davies, Fernando Llorente and Erik Lamela celebrate after the Ajax UCL semi-final.

A month later, he led the 'pericos' to their last ever league victory over their local rivals, 1-2 in the Camp Nou, a victory that is fondly remembered as the ‘Delapeñazo’. Next to him in the box on Saturday will be the ex-presidents of Espanyol Dani Sánchez Llibre and Joan Collet, as well as other figures from politics and sport.

Despite being sacked for disappointing results at Spurs, Pochettino is still regarded as one of the best managers in world football and rumours abound about where he may end up next. With Mikel Arteta, and potentially Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, leaving Man City, some believe he is the perfect successor to Pep Guardiola. Any thoughts of him taking over from Valverde, however, can be quickly extinguished after what he said about preferring to work on an Argentine farm.