Espanyol are at the Camp Nou on Sunday at 8.45pm CET for the latest edition of the oldest derby in Spanish football, one which dates back all the way to 1900. And although the cliché claims that ‘the form goes out the window’ for games like these, with just three defeats since the turn of the century (home or away in all official competitions), the historical balance is very much tipped the way of FCB.
But the last game before the December break is certainly no ‘gimme’ for the home side, who under new manager Quique Sánchez Flores have put a slow start (just one win in the first six matches) well behind them. Since losing at home to Celta in September, they have gone for nine games without defeat, and have done nothing but rise up the table to their current ninth position.
The ‘parakeets’ managed to keep clean sheets in seven of those games, including a run that saw Diego López break a club record by going for 586 minutes without conceding a goal. It all makes for one of the most dangerous derbies at the Camp Nou in recent years. The meeting in the 2010/11 season was the only time in the last decade that Espanyol have come into the fixture higher up in the table than they will be on Sunday.
And the blue-and-whites have been picking up more points on the road than they have been at their own ground – in fact only Barça and Real Madrid can boast better away records this season. And with just 18 goals leaked in 15 games, Espanyol also have the sixth strongest overall defensive record of the campaign.
They’re not lacking in firepower up front either, with Gerard Moreno, Pablo Piatti and Leo Baptistao leading the way with six, five and three goals respectively.
The last two times Espanyol visited the Camp Nou in LaLiga, Barça put five goals past their local rivals. But if more recent statistical evidence is anything to go by, this derby could be a whole lot tighter…