Barca aiming for derby delight
FC Barcelona head across the city for their first ever visit to Espanyol's new stadium in Cornellà-El Prat (kick off 20:00, R@dio Barça) hoping to take local bragging rights and move six points clear at the top of the table once again.
The Blaugrana are preparing for their debut at their neighbours new purpose-built arena after the Blanc i Blau spent 12 years renting the Estadi Olímpic on Montjuïc. Coach Pep Guardiola is a fan of the venue and also of Espanyol's strengths and has warned his players that they will not be in for an easy time.
Victory in midweek against Deportivo de La Coruña was Barca’s seventh-consecutive triumph and saw them retain their lead at the summit of La Primera four days after moving clear with victory against Real Madrid in the Santiago Bernabéu. After a run of six wins earlier in the campaign the Catalan outfit have gone one better with a great run that began the week after they were held to a 2-2 draw by Almería in early March.
In memory of Jarque
Espanyol had a difficult start to the new season after club captain Daniel Jarque tragically passed away while on pre-season tour in Italy and this game will see the teams pay homage to him. The loss affected everyone in Spanish football and brought the Blanc i Blau and Barça closer together. The team regrouped and have done their skipper proud with nine victories this term and are eight points above the drop zone. Their new stadium has become a hard place for visiting teams to take anything as the hosts have won eight, drawn five and lost just three games there.
Guardiola was buoyed by news that Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Éric Abidal have returned to full training and could be named in the squad for the match, leaving only Andrés Iniesta unable to play following his latest injury setback. Espanyol' appeal against Carlos Kameni's red card against Racing Santander has been over-turned and he is available. and has been included in the squad .
When Barca and Espanyol met for their first official encounter in 1923 the Blaugrana ran out 1-5 winners, but since then the first games in both of the Blanc i Blau's new stadia have ended in 1-1 draws. In 1929 the teams met in the league for the first time in Sarrià and then 12 years ago the first derby was played in the Estadi Olímpic. Historically the local derby has been very even when Espanyol have been the home team with Barca having won 26 times, Espanyol 25 times with 24 draws making up the 75 games between the sides. While Barca have scored 97 goals in the fixtures, Espanyol have netted 101.