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Espanyol vs Barcelona: Preview, TV Channel Info, Team News, Prediction, Betting Odds

An insight into the Catalan derby this weekend.

World Champions Barcelona kick-off the new year with a short trip to Cornella El-Prat to take on city rivals Espanyol in the season’s first Catalan derby on matchday 18. Having only wrapped up the annus mirabilis 2015 with the Club World Cup title followed by a 4-0 decimation of Real Betis, the Blaugrana enter the game at the peak of their spirits.

Following their last game, Barcelona ace Lionel Messi sent a shot across the bows as the Argentine maestro warned their rivals that they are desperate for more glory. “It has been a spectacular year and we wanted to finish it this way. We have a great squad that are desperate to continue winning”, beamed the prolific 28-year old in a post-match conference.

Although emulating a success of that magnitude is extremely difficult, the Catalan behemoths have all the required tools in their arsenal to achieve the impossible. And to add more wind to their sails, summers signings Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan will be available from now on, having sat out the last 6 months on account of the transfer ban.

From all quarters, it makes for a very terrible reading for the struggling Espanyol, who lie 13th in the standings and haven’t got the better of their mightier Catalonia counter-parts since the 2-1 win at the Camp Nou back in 2009.

Kickoff and Telecast

Channel: Sony Kix

Date and Time: Saturday, 2nd January 2016 – 20:30 (IST)

Venue: Estadio Cornella El-Prat

Team news

Hosts Espanyol will have Papa Diop back in the fold after serving a one-game suspension against Sevilla in the midweek, whilst veteran midfielder Salvo Sevilla is pushing for another start. Besides, coach Constantin Galca has no injury concerns to deal with and Los Periquitos have their squad all full strength.

Barcelona too, aren’t plagued with any injury concerns and make the trip with all key players available. The likes of Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Andres Iniesta may return to the starting line-up after sitting out of the game against Betis on Wednesday. Additionally, Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan join the squad and are in line to make their much-awaited debuts.

Probable line-ups:

Espanyol (4-5-1): P. Lopez; J. Lopez, Roco, Duarte, Alvaro Gonzalez; Sanchez, Sevilla, Asensio, Canas, Caicedo; Perez.

Barcelona (4-3-3): Bravo; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Iniesta, Rakitic, Busquets; Messi, Suarez, Neymar.

Form

Espanyol sacked manager Sergio Gonzalez after 1-0 loss at Celta Vigo on matchday 15. The Blanquiazules have had an indifferent season in the league, losing 9 of the opening 17 games and winning only five. Their poor record sees them languish 13th in the table and 20 points adrift of their weekend visitors.

The newly appointed head-honcho Constantin Galca had a bright start to his tenure, winning against the lowly Levante and Las Palmas at home, before losing 2-0 to Sevilla. And its going to get more tougher for the Romanian as his side face Barcelona three times in the next 10 days.

Last 5 matches: D-L-W-W-L (Last match: Sevilla 2-0 Espanyol)

Barcelona are aiming to build on their 4-0 rout of Betis in La Liga after 2 consecutive draws before leaving for the Club World Cup commitments in December. The holders first blew a two goal lead at home to Deportivo La Coruna, and were later held 1-1 by Valencia.

The stalemates allowed rivals Atletico and Real Madrid to close the gap at the top and are currently breathing right under their necks. The Blaugrana however, have a game at hand and haven’t been beaten in the last 16 games.

Last 5 matches: D-D-W-W-W (Last match: Barcelona 4-0 Real Betis)

Key stats

  • Barcelona have won 93 times against Espanyol, the most they’ve won against any side in the league.
  • Espanyol have lost only 2 of the 9 home games this season.
  • Last 3 La Liga games between these teams has seen an Espanyol player sent off.
  • Espanyol have scored only once in their last 7 games against Barcelona.
  • Barcelona have won more penalties (9) than any other side in Europe’s top 5 leagues.

Key battles

Espanyol defence vs MSN

Obviously, the biggest threat from the visiting side will be stemming through their prolific attacking triumvirate of Messi, Suarez and Neymar, who together accrued 134 goals in the 2015 calendar year. The all Latin-American partnership have been one of the best partnerships in the history, and containing them is a Sisyphean task. Atleast for Espanyol.

The home side have one of the worst defensive record in the league, having conceded 28 times in 17 games. Only Granada, Rayo Vallecano and Levante, the three teams in danger zone, have let in more.

Barring the six that they conceded to Real Madrid on matchday 3, Espanyol otherwise, have surrendered only 3 goals in the other 8 home games which may give them some confidence, but MSN’s blistering form may smash it out of the park.

Prediction:

New manager Constantin Galca hasn’t completely cemented the chinks in this squad as it was seen in the game against Sevilla, and its only set to get wider after the game against Barcelona.

Espanyol may have been relatively better at home, but stand no chance against the might of the Blaugranas.

Predicted score: Espanyol 0-3 Barcelona

Betting Odds (bet365)

Espanyol – 25/1

Draw – 16/1

Barcelona – 1/20

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