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La Liga Preview: Espanyol v Barcelona

SoccerNews in La Liga 24 May 2013

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City pride is all that will be at stake when Spanish champions Barcelona visit cross-town rivals Espanyol on Sunday.

In fact, Barca coach Tito Vilanova should be thanking his team’s derby rivals – it was Espanyol’s 1-1 draw with Real Madrid nearly a fortnight ago that gift-wrapped his team a 22nd Spanish top flight title.

With that said, derbies between these two sides are rarely civil affairs and Espanyol always seem to find an extra gear when Barcelona come to play.

Victory in their final two league matches of the season would see Barca reach the 100-point mark and equal the record set by Real Madrid last season.

The teams head into the match in contrasting form, with Barca posting a 2-1 victory over Real Valladolid last weekend, while Espanyol were beaten 2-0 by lowly Deportivo La Coruna.

Espanyol are without a win in their past four La Liga games, and look to have downed tools after securing their top-flight survival.

When coach Javier Aguirre arrived last November, replacing Mauricio Pochettino, the club were bottom of the league after taking just nine points from their first 13 games.

The Mexican’s arrival heralded a stunning turnaround, and Espanyol head into this weekend’s game in 11th place.

The last time the two sides played, Barca had a brace from Pedro Rodriguez in a 4-0 victory at Camp Nou in January, and they may need another contribution from him this weekend, given Lionel Messi is out with a hamstring injury.

Alexis Sanchez is another who could be called upon by Vilanova to pick up the considerable slack left by the absence of the Argentine maestro, while skipper Carles Puyol is out with a knee problem.

Aguirre will have almost a full squad to choose from, but Espanyol will be without midfielder Sergio Tejera, who is suspended after picking up a caution at Deportivo La Coruna last weekend.

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