What: Spanish La Liga
Who: Barcelona vs Espanyol
When: Saturday 5th May, 2012, at 20:00 UK time
Where: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain
Having officially lost La Liga and the Champions League, Barcelona need to please the Camp Nou faithful with another exhibition of champagne football in order to build confidence ahead of next season. And with an interesting Copa del Rey final awaiting the Blaugrana against Basque side Athletic Bilbao, victory over local rivals Espanyol would be an even more important morale boosting mission.
Coach Josep Guardiola was honoured in midweek by the club in the team’s first home game after the former midfielder announced that he was leaving Barcelona. But the emotion did not stop Los Cules from inflicting a 4-1 defeat on visiting Malaga.
However, the Barcelona derby does not depend on form, as Espanyol can prove troublesome during these fixtures, even with their town rivals on a high. It is games like these where Guardiola would hope to have a fit Xavi, but the veteran playmaker will sit this one out due to a calf injury. Nonetheless his team will be hopeful of having him for the cup final on 25th May.
Going for the Win
Having slipped in the standings, Espanyol hold nearly no hope of booking European competition for next season. That said, Los Periquitos are always looking forward to meeting their giant neighbours in a derby that has been gaining more and more attention in recent years. Barcelona are firm favourites going into this tie, but Mauricio Pochettino’s men fancy their chances of returning home with a memorable result at the Camp Nou.
Despite their European sorrows, Espanyol keeper Cristian Alvarez admitted that his team will go for the win at the Camp Nou. “We are disappointed not to achieve our European target. Now it is virtually impossible”, commented the shot-stopper. “We go to the Camp Nou for the win as we are aware that this is a special game. However, it would be foolish to think that one game can save our season. We do not think about Barca’s motivations.”
The difference between idealism and reality could hurt Espanyol however. Having scored 108 times in the league so far, Barcelona do not look like slowing down.
Barcelona 2-2 Chelsea (24/04; Champions League)
Rayo Vallecano 0-7 Barcelona (29/04; La Liga)
Barcelona 4-1 Malaga (02/05; La Liga)
Atletico Madrid 3-1 Espanyol (22/04; La Liga)
Espanyol 0-3 Sporting Gijon (28/04; La Liga)
Granada 2-1 Espanyol (01/05; La Liga)
Barcelona: Alexis Sanchez; Xavi; Eric Abidal; Andreu Fontas; David Villa; Gerard Pique
Espanyol: Kalu Uche; Sergio Garcia; Juan Albin; Felipe Mattioni
Players to watch
Barcelona – Lionel Messi: A hat-trick against Malaga in midweek made it 68 goals so far in all competitions for the little Argentinean. Messi is still fighting Cristiano Ronaldo for the individual top La Liga goalscorer accolade, and more of the same is expected against Espanyol.
Espanyol – Philippe Coutinho: The Brazilian playmaker is enjoying life at Espanyol, on loan from Italian side Inter. Much was expected from him in Italy, but after finding first team football limited, he was shipped off last January to Spain. A strong showing could convince his current club to buy him permanently this summer.
Barcelona appear to be back in form after enduring poor results against Chelsea and Real Madrid, with Rayo Vallecano and Malaga paying the price. It is hard to see the hosts losing at the Camp Nou now, and their run of good results should continue. Barcelona 3-1 Espanyol.
This Barcelona v Espanyol clash will surely be an open game. Who do you think will win? Make sure you visit OLBG for tips and to compare the current odds and betting markets available at all the important bookmakers.