Espanyol - Barcelona Preview: Champions face stern test in Catalan derby as they aim to close gap on Real Madrid
La Liga returns from its winter break with the newly-crowned World Club Champions set for a short trip to their neighbours who enjoyed a strong first half of the season
By Martin Macdonald
Galan, Moreno, Forlin, Vila
Garcia, Verdu, Romaric, Weiss
Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal
Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta
Messi, Cesc, Alexis
Espanyol go into the Barcelona derby with a number of players suffering from niggling injuries. Walter Pandiani is still a doubt as he continues to battle back from a sore thigh muscle. Javi Lopez may be out until next week with a bruised left fibula and Juan Albin is still recovering from the surgery he underwent in September on his right abdominal muscle.
There is still some concern over the fitness of Raul Baena who is struggling with a left quadriceps injury, but on a positive note goalkeeper Carlos Kameni is back in training after his hamstring problem.
Pep Guardiola only has two injury problems in the Barcelona squad; Ibrahim Afellay and David Villa remain long-term absentees and will be out of action for the foreseeable future.
Victor Valdes, and Andres Iniesta returned to training on Thursday after sitting out the session on Wednesday.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- The last time Barcelona played Espanyol, Pep Guardiola's side won the match 2-0, with Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique both scoring to seal the victory.
- Barcelona's first La Liga match of 2011 saw them defeat Levante 2-1 at Camp Nou, with Pedro bagging a brace to see his side to victory.
- The Camp Nou giants have scored well more than double the amount of goals that Espanyol have notched up in the league so far. Pep Guardiola's side have netted 50 times but their rivals have only scored 17.
- Espanyol's entire squad has scored the exact same amount of goals that Lionel Messi has scored in La Liga this season.
- Espanyol's last match saw the Catalan side lose 2-1 against Spanish Seguna B outfit Cordoba in the Copa del Rey.
- Joan Verdu plays his former side in this match. The Espanyol midfielder was a product of Barcelona's youth system and even made an appearance in the Champions League against Shakhtar Donetsk.
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Top 3 Predictions
Espanyol 0-3 Barcelona
- 18.28 %
Espanyol 0-4 Barcelona
- 15.95 %
Espanyol 0-5 Barcelona
- 15.19 %
|La Liga (LIGA)||1 Nov 2013||Barcelona 1 - Espanyol 0|
|La Liga (LIGA)||26 May 2013||Espanyol 0 - Barcelona 2|
|La Liga (LIGA)||6 Jan 2013||Barcelona 4 - Espanyol 0|
|La Liga (LIGA)||5 May 2012||Barcelona 4 - Espanyol 0|
|La Liga (LIGA)||8 Jan 2012||Espanyol 1 - Barcelona 1|
|19 Dec 2013||Espanyol 2 - Real Jaén 0||ESPC|
|15 Dec 2013||UD Almería 0 - Espanyol 0||LIGA|
|8 Dec 2013||Real Jaén 2 - Espanyol 2||ESPC|
|30 Nov 2013||Espanyol 1 - Real Sociedad 2||LIGA|
|24 Nov 2013||Rayo Vallecano 1 - Espanyol 4||LIGA|
|18||Juan Daniel Forlín||Defender|
|16||Javier López Rodríguez||Defender|
|8||Andrés Iniesta Luján||Midfielder|
|13||José Pinto Colorado||Goalkeeper|
|-||Andreu Fontàs Prat||Defender|
Verdu made his first team debut for Barcelona in a Champions League match against Shakhtar Donetsk but did not make much of an impact at the club. The talented midfielder will have a lot to prove against Barca and he should aim to get on the ball and make things happen in the final third whenever he can.
Lionel Messi was supposedly suffering from the flu during Barcelona's last match against Osasuna, yet came on as a substitute and lit up Camp Nou with a series of dazzling runs. If the Argentine is now back to full fitness for the Catalan derby, then Espanyol should be very afraid.
Apart from a 5-1 victory for Barcelona against Espanyol in December 2010, the Catalan derbies have been relatively tight affairs in recent years with one or two goals usually proving to be the difference. However, if Guardiola's side are in the mood that they displayed against Osasuna in their last match, it will be a long night for the hosts.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed