PREVIEW | RCD Espanyol v FC Barcelona

PREVIEW | RCD Espanyol v FC Barcelona

The city rivals meet in a crucial game for both sides, albeit at opposite ends of the Liga table

The Barcelona derby is always a special occasion, but the one this Sunday at 9pm CEST is bigger than most. The RCDE Stadium could be the place where FC Barcelona are finally confirmed Liga champions 2022/23.

After Barça beat Getafe 1-0 in the last round of fixtures, while Real Madrid slumped to defeat at Real Sociedad, the title chase was practically decided. There are still five games to go, but Barça's lead is now so big that they only need one more win to be mathematically confirmed champions. More than ever it is now just a matter of time. And that time could well be the moment the final whistle blows in Cornellà.

But in order for that happen, Barça will need to win the match. Any hope of winning the title before the game even starts ended when Real Madrid beat Getafe 1-0 on Saturday. Atlético Madrid will also still be mathematically in contention if they can beat Elche in their game on Sunday afternoon.

Espanyol in trouble

And winning this game will not be an easy tasks at all for the league leaders. Espanyol are a side that always raises their game when they face their neighbours. In stark contrast to their respective league positions at the time, three of the last five meetings between the teams have ended in draws, and in the other two games Barça narrowly got by with 1-0 wins. Indeed, Espanyol are one of just three sides (Rayo Vallecano and Girona are the others) that have managed to take points at Spotify Camp Nou this season. And they are one of just two that have scored a goal in the stadium.


The parakeets have all the more reason to need a result on Sunday considering the very delicate situation they are in right now. They are second from bottom and staring relegation in the face, having started the weekend three points adrift of the safety zone.

Despite his lack of previous experience at this level, there have been clear improvements at Espanyol since their former player Luis García took over as manager. This is an absolutely massive game for him and his team. Defeat would move them closer still to a drop to the second tier. And to rub salt into the wound, they would also have to witness their biggest rivals celebrating the championship on their own turf. They will be doing everything in their power to stop that from happening.

As we said, derbies are big games. But this one is huge.

Team news

The big news on Saturday was the return from injury of Sergi Roberto, meaning the extraordinary luxury at this stage of a season of FC Barcelona not having a single injury concern. With no suspensions to worry about either, Xavi was able to choose from a full squad for this game.

Did you know?

Espanyol have not beaten Barça in 25 league games, the longest ever winless streak for any team in any top flight derby.

Espanyol have not avoided defeat in both derbies of a Liga season since 2007/08, when their manager was Ernesto Valverde, who later managed Barça of course.

One more 1-0 win (Barça have 11 so far) would be an all-time Liga record for wins by that scoreline.

There is a bigger points difference between Barça and Espanyol going into this game than in any other derby this century.

Xavi says

"Giving the players a five-day break? I actually wanted to give them eight days, but then thought that was too many."

"I thought Luis García was the best of the candidates I heard they were after for the Espanyol job. They have improved with him and they have a lot to play for against us. I expect them to have more of the ball. I'm surprised they are so low down in the table because they're a good side."

"The emotional aspect is important. We need to control our nerves because derbies always get heated."


"It is always an additional motivation to play at Cornellà, but we always want to win, whoever we play. I care more about winning the league than the place where it happens."

"Sergio Busquets made his decision, even though it's not good for us he felt that the time was right. He is the most intelligent player I ever played with. There's no question that he's the best defensive midfielder the club ever had. I think it's wrong that he never got a Ballon d'Or nomination. I wish him well. We now move on to a new era, and there are young players coming through who can replace him, but they will be under a lot of pressure to fill his boots."


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