Jordi Alba says Barcelona are not afraid of another dismal derby with Espanyol costing them the Liga title.
Luis Enrique’s side host their city rivals on Sunday knowing that a victory could see them clinch the domestic crown for the 24th time in their history, should Atletico Madrid lose to Levante and Real Madrid fail to beat Valencia.
Barca are still haunted by memories of June 9, 2007, when Espanyol record goalscorer Raul Tamudo struck a 90th-minute equaliser to silence Camp Nou and allow Madrid to go on and win the title under Fabio Capello.
A run of three defeats in a row had threatened to see the Catalans surrender their title before three wins from as many games last month got them back on track and Alba is adamant there will be no repeat of the infamous ‘Tamudazo’ to inspire another collapse.
“We don’t fear another ‘Tamudazo’,” he said this week.
“We honestly never thought the league was won. It’s very tight, but we still depend on ourselves. It won’t be decided until the end of the season.
“Espanyol would play with the same desire, even if they weren’t playing for safety. We’ll try to win and be at our best. We have to win our last two games to win the league.”
Espanyol ended a run of five games without a victory with a hugely important 1-0 win over Sevilla last week, a result which leaves them five points clear of the relegation zone with two games to play.
Midfielder Victor Sanchez insists that their motivation at Camp Nou is simply to secure a result that will guarantee their top-flight status for another season and not to deal a blow to their rivals’ title hopes.
“Our motivation is staying up. That’s our challenge and we want to do it now,” he told AS. “We have to fight to the death, with the fans’ support and always try to win. That’s what we care about, not Barca.
“We need a point and we want it against Barca. I think we did well in the last two derbies, in the league and the Copa del Rey. We have to be strong in our pressing and close off the passing channels. If we steal the ball and break, we can do damage.”
Barca and Espanyol played out three derbies in the space of 11 days in January, with a 0-0 draw in La Liga followed by 4-1 and 2-0 victories for the holders in the Copa del Rey last 16.
Defender Jeremy Mathieu could be back for Barca after spending more than a month out with a knee injury, but Thomas Vermaelen, Claudio Bravo (both calf) and Sandro Ramirez (thigh) are still out.
Espanyol top-scorer Felipe Caicedo (Achilles) is a major doubt for the visitors, while Alvarez Gonzalez and Oscar Duarte are both banned. Abraham Gonzalez (hamstring) and Anaitz Arbilla (Achilles) are out. Ruben Duarte could be back from a knee problem, however, after completing training on Friday.
Key Opta Stats:
– Barcelona have gone 13 league games without a defeat against Espanyol (W10 D3) and they have kept 10 clean sheets in that period.
– Should Barcelona find the net, they would have scored in all their home games in La Liga this season
– Espanyol have picked up six defeats in a row at Camp Nou, scoring a single goal in that period.
– Lionel Messi has scored eight goals in his last four Barcelona derbies at Camp Nou in La Liga.
– Among players with at least 30 games played in La Liga this season, Hernan Perez has conceded the most fouls per game (2.67).