Exciting weekend in La Liga is ahead of us with the Derbi Barceloni between Barcelona and Espanyol scheduled for Saturday night at Camp Nou. Clashes between the old city rivals bear great importance despite the obvious difference in quality and we once again expect to see a fiercely-competed contention.
Barcelona to maintain 100% Camp Nou record
If we exclude their 3-1 Super Copa defeat at the hands of Real Madrid and the Champions League quarter-final goalless draw versus Juventus, Barcelona have enjoyed a perfect home record in La Liga since December 2016. The team had its ups and downs, but the Catalans will be pushing to continue their impressive stretch on Saturday when they lock horns with fierce local rivals. Three points are a must for the team which went through a difficult summer. Barcelona lost one of the members of their renowned MSN trio with Neymar being sold to PSG in the world-record transfer worth €222. The Catalans replaced the Brazil international with the French hotshot Ousmane Dembele who arrived from Borussia Dortmund to realise his boyhood dream. Having pocketed a significant amount of money from the Neymar transfer, Barcelona attempted to boost their squad additionally but have plenty of problems signing a notable player in the midfielder. PSG star Marco Verratti turned down the chance to move to Camp Nou whereas Premier League giants Liverpool managed to endure the heavy pressure on their star player Philippe Coutinho who was the subject of several bids from the Catalan side.
Ernesto Valverde was happy to welcome Rafinha back to training after a meniscus injury although the Espanyol clash might be arriving too soon for him. Ivan Rakitic is also ruled out through a hamstring injury he picked while on international duty, but Ousmane Dembele is tipped to make his competitive debut for Los Cules.
Espanyol out to recreate last season’s result
It’s been more than six years since Espanyol last beat Barcelona at Camp Nou, but we are here talking about a different kind of heroics. Namely, Espanyol do not have a favourable record when it comes to matches against Barcelona, but Quique Sanchez Flores are nevertheless coming off from a season that deserves to be branded as successful. The Catalan side finished eighth in La Liga standings last season, which is a six-place improvement to the 2015/16 campaign and the talented manager is expected to raise the bar even higher this year. Espanyol have been transformed into a quality side that plays good football and are expected to continue with the exciting style of play in the new season as well. Good news is that Espanyol managed to keep most of the first-team players around, with the exception of Felipe Caicedo who moved to Lazio this summer. The Blanquiazules boosted their squad with Krasnodar defender Naldo, Valencia winger Pablo Piatti and midfielder Sergi Darder from Olympique Lyon as the three most notable players, whereas the likes of Esteban Granero, Sergio Garcia and Diego Lopez who all joined on free transfer are also expected to add to the squad quality.
The visiting side will have plenty of selection worries ahead of their short trip to Camp Nou. Diego Lopez, Victor Sanchez Mata and Alvaro Vasquez are back in training but Oscar Gaitan, Javi Lopez and Adrian Lopez are all likely to sit out the game due to their respective injuries. Additionally, Oscar Duarte is unavailable through a knee setback.
When it comes to the final outcome of this match, there is hardly any dilemmas as Barcelona are widely expected to record a clear-cut victory. The only questions are raised over the result of the match and whether the visitors will be able to put one in at Camp Nou or not.
Top pick: Barcelona to win to Nil 2.00 (1/1) @Ladbrokes
Alternative pick 1: Both teams to score – No 1.92 (37/40) @BetVictor
Alternative pick 2: Luis Suarez to score anytime 1.53 (8/15) @PaddyPower