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The international break is over and La Liga returns on Saturday with one of the biggest games of the season. It’s FC Barcelona at home to RCD Espanyol (kick off, 8.45pm CET) in the latest edition of a derby encounter that dates all the way back to 1900 (buy tickets HERE)
Barça will be looking to capitalise on a positive start to the campaign, with two wins out of two in their Liga account so far. But as the cliché goes, where derbies are concerned, the form book often gets thrown out the proverbial window!
Arda Turan took a knock while representing Turkey and Rafinha is still side-lined with meniscus trouble. Sergi Roberto joins them on the sidelines after picking up an injury to his left knee in Friday's training session, but Luis Suárez was able to feature in both of Uruguay’s recent fixtures and is available again.
Barça have also added Ousmane Dembélé to their squad since their last outing, and the French striker may well get his chance to make his debut in front of his new fans.
The visitors main doubt is goalkeeper Diego López, who was named in the squad but is still having knee trouble. Midfielder Víctor Sánchez is over his calf troubles and there are also places for new inclusions Sergio Darder (on loan from Lyon) and Dídac Vilà, who has returned to his former club from AEK Athens.
In his pre-match press conference, Barça boss Ernesto Valverde noted that "it motivates us to play against Espanyol. I expect them to play aggressively and on the counter attack. Our idea is to win and to be very concentrated." With regards to new signing Dembélé, the coach has been encouraged by the young Frenchman's attitude. "Every day he gets better and more involved in the group. He's ready."
For his part, Espanyol boss Quique Sánchez Flores offered that “some of my players know much more about the derby than I do. It’s just three points, but with so many emotions attached. We have to be strong and do something for our fans, who find it so hard to be Espanyol in Barcelona. We don’t know what Barça will be like after so many players were away on international duty, but they’ve got a lot of diversity.”
Barça have bounced back from a disappointing Spanish Super Cup by winning their first two league games against Betis (home) and Alavés (away). Only Real Sociedad and Leganés have a similar 100 per cent record.
Indeed, three of those Leganés points were earned at the home of Espanyol – a bitter blow for the parakeets after their season had got off to such a positive start with a 1-1 draw at Sevilla.
In 2009, Espanyol achieved a rare win at the Camp Nou, but eighteen league and cup meetings since then have produced fifteen Barça wins, three draws and not a single victory for the blue-and-whites.
In those last eight years, Barça have always won when they have had home advantage, and sometimes by some impressive margins. In fact, the last four derbies at the Camp Nou have all seen FCB score either four or five times. Let’s hope that impeccable form continues on Saturday!
The game is going to be screened in just about every corner of the world, but if you are one of the unlucky few who can’t get the game in your country or region, you can always listen to our live English commentary on Radio Barça. The link will appear on the home page shortly before kick-off.
And don’t forget that we’ll have all the news at it happens on our official social networks.
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