Few derbies are as one sided historically as the Derbi barceloni, but that doesn’t mean Espanyol are being taken lightly by the La Liga almost perfect league leaders, Barcelona.
History shows us that in recent years, if Espanyol are likely to cause an upset anywhere, it’s going to be in the Camp Nou. Between 2004 and 2009, Barcelona managed to beat their “small sister” only once at home, drawing three matches and losing another. Yes, Espanyol are heading into this match from the 18th place, as it looks they’ll be spending all season battling against relegation, but there has been a change in recent weeks.
Since the home loss to Getafe in late November, leaving Espanyol with nine points in 13 matches, there has been quite a turnaround. Javier Aguirre has slowly been making a difference since taking over after that loss. Espanyol haven’t lost in four matches, drawing three, including against Real Madrid and Sevilla and winning the last one vs Deportivo. Some teams didn’t really need a Christmas break.
And while Barcelona keep talking about respecting their rivals, it’s hard to ignore the differences in the team. Tito Vilanova will be making his return after the illness-related absence, although he isn’t going to have a full squad available. Victor Valdes is still doubtful, and so are Adriano, Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song. For Espanyol there’s a very meaningful injury to goalkeeper Cristian Alvarez who is highly doubtful to start, and is defender Raul Rodriguez.
The man who has been hot for the Periquitos is a former Barcelona player, Simao Sabrosa. The Portuguese winger has scored in two of the last three matches and after a very rough start to his career with the club, he has been playing much better under Aguirre. Along with the Mexican manager, Simao enjoyed probably the best seasons of his career while playing at Atletico Madrid a few years ago.
Predictions – Lionel Messi is one name that’s enough to put Barcelona as favorites in this one. Even when forgetting about the past record between these two sides, which means only one Espanyol win over the last 10 matches, Barcelona’s 16-1-0 record this season means there’s just too much of a quality gap to overcome.