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Sunday is derby day (kick-off 9pm CEST), and here’s a closer look at Barça’s local rivals RCD Espanyol.
Hans Gamper sparked a football craze in the city when he founded FC Barcelona in 1899, and within a year a number of other teams had started playing the game too. Originally set up by university students, the ‘Spanish Football Society’ is the only one of those rival clubs that has survived to the present day.
The ‘big two’ of the old Catalan Championship, and who share the oldest rivalry in Spanish football, were founder members of La Liga in 1929. Espanyol have been relegated five times over the years, but they have always managed to come straight back up the following year, most recently in the 2020/21 season.
Espanyol is the club that has appeared in the most editions of La Liga without ever winning the title. But they have won the Copa de Rey four times (twice this century) and twice reached the final of the UEFA Cup/Europe League, on both occasions losing on penalties.
For most of their history, Espanyol played at the Estadi de Sarrià, just down the road from the Camp Nou. The site was sold in 1997 and the team spent a decade at the Olympic Stadium, Montjuïc (the same place Barça will be using next season) before moving to their new home, the ultra-modern 40,500 capacity RCDE Stadium on the outskirts of metropolitan Barcelona.
HEAD TO HEAD
FC Barcelona traditionally have the upper hand in the derbi barcelonés. Although Espanyol did win the home leg of the Copa del Rey quarter final in 2018 (but were ultimately beaten 2-1 on aggregate), they have not won a league derby since Iván de la Peña’s famous brace at Camp Nou in 2009, and have not won at home since 2006/07.
In La Liga, Barça are currently on their longest ever unbeaten run against their local rivals, an amazing 25 derbies. In that time, Barça have scored 59 goals, and Espanyol just eight.
But although games in the 2010s saw Barça put five goals past Espanyol on four occasions, and score four goals against them just as many times, things have been a lot tighter of late. Three of the last five derbies have ended in draws, and the other two were tight 1-0 wins for Barça.
Last five meetings
31/12/22 (LIGA) Barça 1 (Alonso) Espanyol 1
13/02/22 (LIGA) Espanyol 2 Barça 2 (Pedri. Luuk de Jong)
20/11/21 (LIGA) Barça 1 (Memphis) Espanyol 0
08/07/20 (LIGA) Barça 1 (L Suárez) Espanyol 0
04/01/20 (LIGA) Espanyol 2 Barça 2 (L Suárez, A Vidal)
Espanyol got off to one of their worst ever starts to a league campaign, and when they came to Spotify Camp Nou on New Year's Eve, they were perilously close to the relegation zone. But the 1-1 draw seemed to kick-start a revival. However, just when they were starting to look safe, they slumped to a run of the just one point from eight games and ended up down in the borrom three.
A much-needed win against Getafe and a spirited but ultimately unsuccessful display at Sevilla in their last match suggest there is still some fire left in the team. There are five games to go and the parakeets are determined to keep battling for survival.
International caps: Martin Braithwaite (Denmark, 66), Cesar Montes (Mexico, 34), Keidi Bare (Albania, 22), Joselu (Spain, 2), Javi Puado (Spain, 1), Alvaro Fernandez (Spain, 1), Óscar Gil (Spain, 1) Aleix Vidal (Spain, 1), Denis Suárez (Spain, 1)
Aleix Vidal (below) spent one year of his youth at La Masia and spent the following years team-hopping around Spain before finally settling at Almeria. After impressing at Sevilla he finally made it back to Barça in 2015, where he’d suffer a serious ankle injury and eventually returned to Sevilla. He moved to Espanyol in 2021, a club where he had already spent a few years in his youth.
Left back Brian Oliván was a youth player at Barça, best known before joining Espanyol this summer for his services to Cadiz and Mallorca.
Midfielder Denis Suárez had already played for Barça B before returning as a first team player from 2016 to 2019. After 49 appearances, he was sold back to Celta in his native Galicia, from where he arrived at Espanyol on loan during the winter transfer window.
Danish international striker Martin Braithwaite (below) was a mid-season signing to Barça from Leganés in 2020. He played 44 games as a blaugrana before moving across the city to wear blue and white in 2022.
Centre back Sergi Gómez was at Barça for eight years in his youth, playing 96 games for the B team. He was then at Celta and Sevilla before returning to Espanyol in a native Catalonia at the start of this season.
Top scorers 2022/23
Joselu (14), Braithwaite (9)
After a run of four consecutive defeats, Luis García was brought in to replace Diego Martinez as manager last month. A product of the Real Madrid youth system, García played 222 times for Espanyol.
His managerial experience only extended to the CF Damm youth team in Catalonia and Real Madrid's third team RSC Internacional FC before he got the call to come and help his former club.
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