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Espanyol v Barcelona

Barcelona team news: Coutinho starts as Messi dropped vs Espanyol

1:19 am AEDT 5/2/18
Lionel Messi Barcelona
Ernesto Valverde's side visit Espanyol looking to make it eight wins in a row in La Liga, but will do so without their star man on from the start

Lionel Messi has been left out of the Barcelona starting XI for Saturday's clash with Espanyol, while Philippe Coutinho starts for the league leaders.

The Argentine star takes his place on the bench for Ernesto Valverde's La Liga leaders after playing the full 90 minutes in Thursday's 1-0 win over Valencia in the Copa del Rey.

Coutinho, meanwhile, who came off the bench against Los Che, makes just his second start in La Liga following his January move from Liverpool

He partners the returning Paulinho, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta in midfield, while Ivan Rakitic drops to the bench.

Paco Alcacer is also included from the start after coming on as a sub in each of the last two games and partners Luis Suarez in attack.

Their hosts, Espanyol, have made three changes to the side that beat Leganes in La Liga last week.

Attacker Sergio Garcia drops to the bench alongside defenders Oscar Duarte and Mario Hermoso, while Jose Manuel Jurado, Sergi Darder and Naldo are drafted in to the first team.

Barcelona are sitting pretty at the top of the table ahead of the derby game, holding an 11-point lead over Atletico Madrid, who face third-placed Valencia later in the day. 

Espanyol, on the other hand, are 15th and have failed to win in their last three league matches.

Espanyol XI: Diego Lopez, Navarro, Naldo, Aaron, Victor Sanchez, David Lopez, Darder, Jurado, Leo Baptistao, Granero, Gerard

Subs: Pau Lopez, Duarte, Sanchez, Garcia, Melendo, Javi Lopez, Hermoso.

Barcelona XI: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Umtiti, Pique, Digne; Busquets, Paulinho, Iniesta, Coutinho; Suarez, Alcacer.

Subs: Cillessen, Rakitic, Denis Suarez, Messi, Alba, Sergi Roberto, Yerry Mina.