Monday, December 10, 2018

Prediction: Espanyol vs Barcelona

Verdict: Barcelona & Both sides to Score

Best Odds: 2/1

Bookmaker: 888sport

La Liga weekend action is headlined by the Catalan derby as defending champions make a short trip to neighbours Espanyol. The hosts will be looking to put an end to their three-match losing run as they prepare to lock horns with table-toppers Barcelona, who need three points in order to remain at the top of the pack.

Espanyol

Espanyol managed to edge out Cadiz in Tuesday’s Copa del Rey encounter and will have gained a morale boost they would hope will be enough to end a three-match losing streak in the league. They will hardly get a better occasion to do so than this, knowing that Catalan Derby is much more than a regular game.

Derby is a matter of national pride and the undervalued Catalan side will have special motivation to do well against their more renowned locals. Catalan Derbies have produced historic battles and with Espanyol looking for their first home victory over the Blaugrana in last 11 years, the moment of the match is somewhat special. Irrespective of their current losing streak, Espanyol have done remarkably well this season. The mini-run pushed them outside the European places as Espanyol currently sit in eighth place, level on points (21) with both Gerona and Levante in seventh and sixth, respectively. Barcelona are not exactly a side you can hope to get points against but it’s a Derby and everything’s possible if you believe hard enough.

Team News

The experienced striker Sergio Garcia is set to miss the third game on the trot due to a muscle injury.

The same problem is troubling the Brazilian defender Naldo who is also expected to miss out on the Saturday’s Catalan Derby.

Barcelona

A comfortable 4-1 Copa del Rey victory over Leonesa will paint a distorted picture of Barcelona’s current form which, in all honesty, is far from being at the expected level. Ernesto Valverde will thus use the upcoming Catalan Derby to gain some overdue consistency in the league and try to maintain their lead ahead of persistent Sevilla.

The Blaugrana moved back to the top of the pack in La Liga last weekend after beating Villarreal and courtesy of Sevilla’s inability to get past Alaves. Ernesto Valverde’s men have experienced a difficult patch in the league recently though. They lost to Real Betis (4-3) and drawn with Atletico Madrid (1-1) which is four points lost in two games, just enough to complicate things at the top. The trip to Espanyol comes at a wrong time for Barcelona, however, as Blaugrana are experiencing plenty of selection problems at the moment. With as much as seven first-team stars either confirmed as unavailable or questionable, Ernesto Valverde faces a daunting task in fielding the strongest side possible. Ousmane Dembele’s resurgence can be a good news for Barcelona, however, as the 20-year-old is coming off from a fine performance against Villarreal last time out in the league.

Team News

Summer recruit Malcom is joining the likes of Rafinha, Samuel Umtiti and Sergi Roberto in the treatment room after sustaining an ankle sprain against Leonesa that will keep him sidelined for at least two weeks.

Luis Suarez is not expected to return until the New Year, while Arthur and Arturo Vidal’s fitnesses remain questionable.

Key Factors to Consider

  • It’s been 11 years since Espanyol last beat Barcelona at home
  • Blaugrana lost just one of their last 12 La Liga trips to Espanyol
  • Barcelona will be without up to 7 first-team players for the Catalan Derby
  • Espanyol suffered three consecutive defeats in La Liga
  • Espanyol are the only La Liga side yet to draw a home game (W5, L1)

Conclusion

A big reaction should be expected from the home side which lost three straight matches prior to the Catalan Derby. Espanyol fans are sure to prepare a hostile atmosphere at the Cornella-El Prat and the injury-hit Barcelona side will be forced to work for a much-needed win here.

Verdict: Barcelona & Both sides to Score

Best Odds: 2/1

Bookmaker: 888sport

 

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