There is no better way to open the new year than with a derby match. Espanyol host Barcelona in the Catalan derby on Saturday hoping to end the Blaugrana’s dominance over the past couple of years with the last ten games between local rivals ending in Barca’s favour.
Living in the shadow
Espanyol have been living in the shadow of their city rivals who boast all the fame and glory of the Catalan region. The Periquitos have not been able to defeat Barcelona in their last 12 outings, losing ten and drawing only two. Barca’s dominance is hardly a surprise and the last time Espanyol mustered a win in the Catalan derby was at home in January 2007 when they recorded a 3-1 victory. The hosts will be hoping to repeat the similar feat six years later, but will have little to hope given the current situation. Espanyol are occupying the 13th place in the standings with 20 points to the name, five clear of the relegation zone. Constantin Galca’s men have ended the year with a 2-0 defeat at Sevilla, which intercepted a two-match winning run in the Copa del Rey and La Liga so the hosts will be hoping to get back to winning ways when they welcome Barcelona. They will need no particular motivation as derbies are always closely contested affair with both team eager to claim points and bragging rights. However, with Espanyol losing three of their last four La Liga matches, they will need more than hope and motivation in order to beat the high-flying Barcelona.
Victor Sanchez and Anaitz Arbilla are the two fitness doubts for the upcoming event, while Pape Diop is returning from suspension and should come back into the midfield. With no major squad problems Galca will have his full crop available for the Saturday’s encounter.
It’s been an impressive year for Barcelona. The Catalans have ended 2015 with five trophies on the shelf, trophies that were at display before the final game of the calendar year against Real Betis. Luis Enrique’s team gave their fans the treat easing past their last Wednesday’s rival with four goals. Neymar’s missed penalty fortunately bounced off from Heiko Westermann for the opener, while Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, with his brace that took his tally to 15 goals this term, closed the deal. The game against Real Betis was Messi’s 500th for Barcelona and there was no better way to mark the milestone than with a goal, his 425th. Enrique and his troops are highly motivated to go from strength to strength and try to emulate the fantastic year. Their summer signings Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan will add fresh blood and wind to the sails. The aforementioned duo has sat out the last six months and is raring to go following the expiration of the transfer ban. Blaugrana are currently sitting on top of the standings, they haven’t conceded a single goal in three consecutive games and will be looking to keep it that way as they prepare for their visit to the neighbouring Estadi Cornella-El Prat.
With the exception of his long-term absentees Rafinha and Douglas, Luis Enrique will have no other selection issues. Jeremy Mathieu is pushing for the place in the fold and his starting line-up place could be the only change to the team.
Barcelona are the clear-cut favourites to claim the maximum three points and open the new year on a high note. Espanyol have a poor record against their local rivals who are without a loss in their last nine matches in La Liga.
Top pick: Half-time/Full-time away win 1.62 (8/13) @Ladbrokes
Alternative pick 1: Both teams to score – No 1.76 (8/11) @Betfair
Alternative pick 2: Luis Suarez to score anytime 1.7 (7/10) @WilliamHill