When: January 6, 2013. 19:00 CET, 1:00 pm EST
Where: Camp Nou, Barcelona
Undefeated Barcelona will play host on Sunday to crosstown rival Espanyol who is battling relegation.
While the individual seasons for each club are in opposite directions, the game will still feature immense excitement. Barcelona is nine points ahead at the top of the table, but a very dangerous Espanyol is in dire need of three points.
The match will be the first for both clubs after the winter break and could set the tempo for the second half of the season.
For Barcelona, a win would continue its undefeated and historic run. But for Espanyol, a win could decide early on whether or not it will face relegation.
With the exciting match just one day away, let’s take a look at the game prediction and what to expect.
"El Derbi Barceloni" is the common name given to the match between FC Barcelona and Espanyol, who are both based in the city of Barcelona. Just like any derby, the match is always intense.
Barcelona will be looking to not only continue its run and keep a commanding lead, but will want to show why it will always be the city’s club.
Espanyol, however, has a lot to prove. With a passionate following in Catalonia, every match against La Blaugrana is a chance to show it too has a voice.
Both sets of fans know what is at stake in the derby. Fans will flock to Camp Nou to see their club settle the annual battle for the city. But most will admit that Espanyol will never rival the great Barcelona.
On top of the game being the historic derby, Espanyol can boast an undefeated record under new coach Javier Aguirre (via Goal). The club is off to a wonderful start and a win at Camp Nou could see Aguirre become an instant hit.
Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano recently admitted that Espanyol has improved under Aguirre and that winning would be difficult (via fcbarcelona).
While it is almost a given that Barcelona will ease to victory against its rivals, anything can happen. Espanyol is desperate and that makes it dangerous.
Look for Barcelona to have early troubles before taking over the game.
When news broke out that Barcelona manager Tito Vilanova had suffered a relapse in his battle with cancer, it looked as though the Catalan boss would face significant time away from the pitch (via ESPN).
However, after recovering from his surgery Vilanova actually led the first training session after the return from the winter break. Though he will continue to have treatment, it appears as though the issue was not as big as fans thought (via fcbarcelona).
In fact, fans should expect the Barcelona manager to be on the sidelines for the Catalan derby.
Though he will be on the sidelines, Vilanova will not be looking for media attention. Barcelona-based Mundo Deportivo reported that the boss would allow assistant Jordi Roura to hold the pregame press conference.
Regardless of how much Vilanova actually does during the game, his return will spur La Blaugrana to victory.
The Barcelona players are ready to make their manager proud and secure a massive victory for their fearless leader.
But this return will mean much more than his influence in this game. Champions League begins in February for Barcelona and the club will definitely want Vilanova to be able to lead it.
The return of Vilanova shows his dedication to the club and that he is willing to fight to lead.
Barcelona will most certainly walk off the field with a big win in this match. And the win may set the stage for the continued recovery of Vilanova.
Barcelona is in a good position to start the New Year as nearly the entire team is healthy.
The club suffered a decent amount of injuries in the first half of the season and also had some players recovering from various surgeries. But that looks to be all in the rear-view mirror heading into Sunday’s clash.
Barcelona made an official statement that Cesc Fábregas, Adriano and Alex Song have all received the medical green light (via fcbarcelona). All three will be welcomed back and will play vital roles for the next few months.
Fábregas is playing the best football of his career, as is Adriano, but Song provides a physical presence when he sees time on the pitch.
Even more so, all three players could be involved in the Catalan derby. Fábregas could even start (more on that later).
But the Catalans have received even better news.
Young winger Isaac Cuenca recently returned to training and, as Marca reported, could return at any time. The 21-year-old is now nearing his return to the pitch, which will give Barcelona more depth and creativity out wide.
However, the remarkable story of Eric Abidal continues.
The Independent recently reported that the French defender returned to training after recovering from a liver transplant. But even more touching is that both he and Tito Vilanova were in training together to start the New Year (via Daily Mail).
With so much recovery taking place, La Blaugrana continues to get stronger. Espanyol will be entering a match that Barcelona is all too ready to handle.
As stated in the last slide, Cesc Fábregas is now clear to play after suffering a thigh injury against Atletico Madrid.
The Catalan midfielder has quickly become one of the best midfielders in the world, if not the best. After his lackluster season last year, Tito Vilanova has unlocked his true ability.
Fábregas is having the greatest season of his career and is becoming a staple starter for La Blaugrana.
In a big derby contest Barcelona will surely put its best XI on the field. Either Fábregas will start with Andres Iniesta on the left wing, or he will come off of the bench in the second half.
Regardless of whether the Spanish international starts or not, it is certain he will play at some point.
But with his form before suffering the thigh injury, fans should expect a big performance by the 25-year-old. Fábregas will be backed to either score or raise his tally as La Liga’s top assist man.
Cules everywhere will surely want to tune in as Cesc Fábregas will show us all why he is the now the world’s best midfielder.
David Villa is finding opportunities hard to come by this season after returning from the broken leg he suffered 13 months ago. The Spaniard could be moving this January and the Catalan derby will decide if he does or not.
Even though La Blaugrana does not want to lose him at this point, it may not make the final decision.
There are reports that David Villa may ask for a transfer to Arsenal as he is unhappy in the Blaugrana shirt (via Daily Mail). The Catalan derby will set the stage for how January will pan out for Villa.
If the striker is not featured on Sunday, it could be a sign that he is already out of the door. But if Villa plays, his play will determine the next move for the club.
If you want Villa to remain at Barcelona, then this game is a necessary watch. If the 31-year-old does not at least come on late, then it will be time to say our goodbyes.
With all the factors entering this game, there is no reason to expect that Barcelona will have trouble with the final score line. I predict Barcelona winning by a score of 3-0.
But that does not mean that Espanyol will not push its Catalan brothers. Fans should expect Barcelona to struggle early on as Espanyol will come out with a lot of energy.
As always tends to happen, Barcelona will deal with the early energy and eventually settle into its poetic rhythm.
La Blaugrana will take over the game before halftime by possibly scoring a goal or two, but the second half will certainly be all Barcelona.
Look for Lionel Messi to score as usual, but this could be the game in which Pedro finally breaks out of his scoring slump.
There are other things that fans should look forward to as well. Martin Montoya could start over Dani Alves as it increasingly looks as if the 21-year-old will unseat the Brazilian.
Marc Bartra could also be a young player to feature late in place of Carles Puyol. Expect Adriano to also be subbed in late in the second half.
But the man to watch this game will be Jordi Alba who is quietly becoming the world’s best left-back. Expect Alba to have another impressive performance linking up with Iniesta on the left wing.
Nonetheless, expect nothing less than a huge Barcelona win in "El Derbi Barceloni."
Predicted Barcelona Starting Lineup
Martin Montoya, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Jordi Alba
Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Cesc Fábregas
Pedro, Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta.
How do you think game will play out? Will Barcelona win easy or be tested? Who will start for La Blaugrana? Don't forget to leave your thoughts and comments below.
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