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FC Barcelona are currently midway through a marathon of matches that isn't going to end until just before the arrival of the Christmas holiday. And what better way to celebrate the midpoint of this gruelling gauntlet of clashes than with Sunday's ever important derby matchup with RCD Espanyol at 5.00 PM CET at Camp Nou. Although the two clubs are separated by a gulf of 17 points in the standings — Barça are currently third with 31 points while Espanyol are 12th with 14 points — the battle is expected to be, as always, a tooth and claw flight for bragging rights in the Catalan capital.
Luis Enrique has back all of his players who rested during last week's Spanish Cup win at Huesca. Back in the mix and well-rested for Sunday are: Claudio Bravo, Dani Alves, Gerard Piqué, Javier Mascherano, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernández, Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar. Also called to duty are Andrés Iniesta — who returned from injury and played in the Huesca match — and the Barça B youngster Munir El Haddadi. Not suiting up due to the coach's decision are: Jordi Masip, Martín Montoya, Douglas, Sergi Roberto, Marc Bartra, and the injured Thomas Vermaelen.
Today's derby will also feature some new faces behind the benches. Thirteen years after facing each other in a derby as players, Luis Enrique and Sergio González will be back at it this time as managers. In fact, today will be the first league derby for each. They already faced each other earlier this season in the Catalunya Supercup, not in La Liga, which Barça won on penalty kicks.
Espanyol arrive at Camp Nou having won two in a row — defeating Levante in La Liga and beating Alaves in the Spanish Cup. Sergio González has announced the same player list as he did for the win over Levante. Espanyol's 18 called to action for Sunday's derby are: Kiko Casilla, Víctor Sánchez, Víctor Álvarez, Salva Sevilla, Stuani, Sergio García, Abraham, Cañas, Héctor Moreno, Javi López, Lucas Vázquez, Fuentes, Colotto, Caicedo, Álvaro, Arbilla, Pau López and Eric Bailly.
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