We are in for the second Catalan derby in less than a week with the atmosphere heated following the last week’s draw at Espanyol. The focus is now turning from La Liga encounter towards the Copa del Rey duel which carries huge importance for both rivals.
Barcelona seeking ‘revenge’
Blaugrana dropped vital points in the La Liga title race after they were held to a goalless stalemate in a bad-tempered Catalan derby last Saturday. Having failed to break down the resilient Periquitos, Luis Enrique’s side were replaced by Atletico Madrid at the top of La Liga standings. Luckily, Real Madrid were also held at their visit to Valencia so Barca’s second place remained intact. The Estadi Cornella-El Prat stalemate between Espanyol and Barcelona was overshadowed by reports claiming that Neymar was the subject of racist chants from the home supporters. Barcelona manager Luis Enrique refused to be drawn onto the reported incident claiming that he was only interested in what was happening on the pitch. The Catalan boss was later named the World’s Best Club Coach of 2015 by the International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS) claiming the trophy with considerable margin over his closest rival Pep Guardiola from Bayern Munich. Guardiola became the third Barcelona manager to be crowned the world’s best after Guardiola in 2009 and 2011 and Frank Rijkaard in 2006 and he will be hopeful that his personal achievement will serve as the morale boost for the entire team as well.
The hosts will have almost full crop of first-team members at disposal as Rafinha remains the only long-term absentee due to his cruciate ligament rupture. Sergi Roberto will also miss the Espanyol rematch through a thigh muscle strain, but Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal are both set for their long awaited debuts.
Espanyol ruling out racism claims
Espanyol’s president Joan Collet has strongly refuted the racism claims towards Neymar and insisted that Barcelona management bring out such accusation when their side fails to win. However, Collet insisted that Espanyol would accept the sanction if there was anything in the racism claims as his club is in line to punish anything that is punishable. Highly heated affair draw much attention of the Spanish media and there is no doubt that we will be in for yet another intense game in the Copa del Rey clash on Wednesday. Constantin Galca’s team have made a push towards toe top half of the table with their huge point against Barcelona as they are 12th in La Liga with 21 points to the name. However, they can expect a strong response from Barcelona in their first Copa del Rey leg on Wednesday and will have to endure a tough challenge. Another important aspect going in Barcelona’s favour ahead of the Catalan derby is the Parakeets’ poor away record. Espanyol have recorded only two away wins this season in all competitions, drawing once and losing seven of those.
Constantin Galca will be heading to Nou Camp without Anaitz Arbilla, who has Achilles tendon problems. In addition, Victor Sanchez and Jose Alberto Canas are also set to miss out on the game due to their injury problems.
Barcelona will want to prove a point when they meet Espanyol in the second clash with their local rivals in just a couple of days. Following the goalless draw and reported insults towards Neymar, there is no doubt that Luis Enrique’s team will respond on the pitch.
Top pick: Half-time/full-time home win 1.46 (6/13) @888sport
Alternative pick 1: Over 3.5 goals 1.91 (10/11) @WilliamHill
Alternative pick 2: Luis Suarez first goalscorer 3.6 (13/5) @Coral