- Copy link
Sunday is derby day in the city, with FC Barcelona at home to local rivals RCD Espanyol. In recent seasons, results in this fixture have been tipped heavily in favour of the home side, but the parakeets are enjoying a tremendous run of form. They don’t give up goals easily these days, but that’s just what Barça need to put some Christmas pressure on Liga leaders Real Madrid.
Barça have had a number of injury woes to work their way around over the last few weeks, but the treatment room is refreshingly underused right now, with only Jeremy Mathieu (calf) unavailable for selection this weekend.
The 18 man matchday squad selected for today's game is: Ter Stegen, Cillessen, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio, Denis Suárez, Arda Turan, Iniesta, Luis Suárez, Messi, Neymar Jr, Rafinha, Mascherano, Paco Alcácer, Jordi Alba, Digne, Sergi Roberto and Umtiti.
There are greater troubles in the Espanyol camp. Víctor Sánchez is a late casualty and misses the meeting with his former club, while two other regular starters, Brazilian striker Léo Baptistão and Paraguayan midfielder Hernán Pérez are also sidelined.
Speaking on Saturday, Luis Enrique commented that “the derby is a very important game for all Barça fans, it is a different game.”
“Both teams are on a positive run. Espanyol are a solid team and they are hard to score against, we will have to be wary of their counterattacks. It will be an intense game and we also hope it will be a good one.”
Meanwhile, his counterpart Quique Sánchez Flores offered that “all games are important for us, but we know this one is special for our fans on an emotional level … We’re neither over-confident nor scared. All we feel is respect and awareness of what this game is all about.”
Barça broke a run of three consecutive league draws with a 3-0 win at Osasuna last week, but are still six points adrift of Real Madrid. A win would cut the gap to three points, with the Liga leaders away at the Club World Cup this week.
It took Espanyol five games to get their first win this season, but there has been a major upturn in their fortunes since then. They have not lost in nine league outings, and when goalkeeper Diego López conceded a late free kick against Sporting last week it was the first time he had been beaten in a club record of 586 minutes.
Dating back to 1900, there is no older fixture in Spanish football than this one. For Espanyol fans, the game in February 2009 was one of the most memorable of all, when they won 2-1 at the Camp Nou. But that result was very much an exception from the norm in a derby that has always tended to go Barça’s way and never so much as in recent seasons.
FCB have cruised to 5-0 and 5-1 in the last two editions, and with a more conservative 1-0 win sandwiched in between there were 4-0 wins in 2012 and 2013. That’s an overall difference of 19 goals for and just one against in the last five Liga derbies at the Camp Nou!
No matter where you are in the world we have you covered. Twitter users can follow @FCBarcelona for a live feed of all the action and there will be English language commentary on Radio Barça.
- Copy link