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Leo Messi’s last minute winner at the Santiago Bernabéu brought FC Barcelona’s Liga title campaign right back to life and the 7-1 thumping of Osasuna on Wednesday made sure things stayed that way. But there are still four ‘finals’ to go and the first of those is none other than a derby trip to neighbours RCD Espanyol on Saturday at 8.45pm CET.
After Real Madrid beat Valencia 2-1 earlier in the day, all Barça can do keep winning their own games and hope that the all-whites slip up in one of their four remaining fixtures.
Andrés Iniesta missed training on Friday with leg pain and has not recovered in time to take part against Espanyol, while the great news is that Neymar Jr is back after serving his three-match suspension. Aleix Vidal, Rafinha and Jeremy Mathieu are all side-lined.
The match day squad in full includes: Ter Stegen, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio, Denis, Arda, Suárez, Messi, Neymar Jr, Cillessen, Mascherano, Paco Alcácer, Jordi Alba, Digne, Sergi Roberto, André Gomes, Umtiti and Aleñá (28).
Centre back Óscar Duarte is out for the rest of Espanyol’s season, while midfielders Salva Sevilla and Álvaro Vázquez plus Paraguayan striker Hernán Pérez will also be watching from the wings.
“Derbies are always special games” said FCB boss Luis Enrique on Friday. “Regardless of league positions or targets, they’re always intense affairs …. I don’t think it’ll just be about the midfield battle. Winning on the road depends on many things, but we always play the same whether we are at home or away.”
His counterpart Quique Sánchez Flores offered that “we want the fans to believe that we can do it this year. We are closer to doing something in this fixture now than we have been in previous years. But we know how difficult it will be … We have fifty points and now all we can do is go out there are put our hearts into the game.”
There have been ups and downs of late, but the 3-2 win in El Clásico means that Barça are knocking on the door of yet another double. There are just four games to go, this one, followed by Villarreal (H), Las Palmas (A) and Eibar (H). The premise is simple. Wins those and hope that Real Madrid drop something along the way.
For Espanyol, meanwhile, the Europa League is no longer a serious prospect, so it’s just a case of seeing out their remaining fixtures. They have won six of their last eight at home, but this is a derby, and the only place for form books where derbies are concerned is out of the proverbial window!
Dating back to 1900, this is the oldest fixture in Spanish football, and it’s one that Barça have dominated in recent years. They haven’t lost to their local rivals since 2009, and haven’t even conceded a goal on their last four league trips to Cornellà-El Prat.
Barça won 4-1 when the side met at the Camp Nou earlier this season, the goals coming from Luis Suárez (2), Jordi Alba and Leo Messi – the Argentinian thereby extending his record tally of derby goals to 15.
The game will be shown around the world and you can find out where to watch it with our handy global guide. If for some reason you can’t get to a TV, don’t despair! You can always tune into our live English language commentary on Radio Barça via our website or follow the action on our official Twitter feed.
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