It's the Derbi Barceloni as crosstown rivals Barcelona and Espanyol face off on Sunday afternoon.
Not surprisingly, this has been a derby dominated by Barca. It has won 88 of the 157 matches between the two sides, with Espanyol claiming victory on just 34 occasions. This has the potential to be a very one-sided match.
Despite already having won La Liga, Barcelona still has plenty to play for. Don't expect the club to be on cruise control. Barca would be embarrassed to drop any points whatsoever to Espanyol.
Where: Estadi Cornellà-El Prat, Barcelona, Spain
When: Sunday, May 26, at 2:00 p.m. ET
Watch: beIN Sport
What's at Stake
Barcelona has already locked up the Spanish league title. The club had its trophy presentation last week after a 2-1 win over Real Valladolid. It was more noteworthy in that it caused this great scene of comedy as Carles Puyol looked to hand the trophy off to Eric Abidal:
You can't blame Alex Song for being so antsy to lift a title after his trophy-less years at Arsenal.
With Barca at 94 points, the goal will be to finish out the season strong and get to 100. It's an important number, because that's the record Real Madrid set when it won La Liga last season.
For Espanyol, there is little to be lost or gained from this outcome, at least in terms of the league table. Beating rivals Barcelona would be sweet, especially after losing 4-0 in the first matchup this season. Otherwise, Espanyol is comfortably in the middle of the table, unable to qualify for European competition or to be relegated.
What They're Saying
With the league title already wrapped up, most of the attention toward Barcelona surrounds the transfer of Neymar to the Catalan giants (h/t Pilar Suarez of Goal.com). Nothing is confirmed at this stage, but according to a Sky Sports report:
The 21-year-old's contract expires at the end of next season and some reports had suggested an agreement with Barcelona was as good as signed.
Santos vice-president Odilio Rodrigues apparently shares that view, quoted on the website of Spanish sports newspaper Diario AS as saying: "When I went to Barcelona to hear the offer, I learned that Neymar had a verbal agreement that when he finished his contract in 2014 he was going to Barcelona.
"He has a gentleman's agreement. He doesn't have a contract, but a verbal agreement."
The news isn't quite as rosy at Espanyol, where fans are planning a protest against Barcelona's guard of honor before the match. Manager Javier Aguirre has publicly stated his players will in fact take part, despite supporters doing the opposite (h/t Sky Sports):
"I am in no position to pass judgement on the fans, but the president has not even spoken to us about the guard of honour, it is protocol, we will do it, and that's that."
Espanyol Player to Watch: Kiko Casilla
Espanyol has scored 43 goals and conceded 49 so far this season in La Liga. It's safe to say that Kiko Casilla will be called upon often on Sunday.
For the season, Casilla has been pretty reliable. At only 26 years old, you might be seeing him in a new shirt over the next couple of seasons.
The best way for Espanyol to get any sort of result is to score at least a goal and hope Casilla can hold his own in the net. The club's defense has been good this season, but Barca is too good to expect it will fail to have any solid chances on goal.
That's why it's all up to Casilla to limit the damage.
Barcelona Player to Watch: Alexis Sanchez
Alexis Sanchez's time at Barcelona can only be classified as a disappointment. He's shown flashes, but on the whole, he's failed to deliver upon the promise he showed at Udinese.
Still only 24 years old, there's plenty of time for Sanchez to prove himself at the Camp Nou or kick-start his career at a new club. Either way, he should be using these last two matches to make a nice impression going into the summer.
It will likely be very telling upon his future with the club. Barca could sell him and essentially admit the partnership work out, or it could keep him as a sign it still has faith in the winger.
With so much on the line going into the summer, it will be interesting to watch Sanchez's final performances of the season.
It's hard to see Barcelona coming out of this with anything less than three points. The club has won three of its last four matches, with Espanyol losing three of its last four.
Even without Lionel Messi, the Catalans have more than enough to get past their city rivals. With Messi out, it will be interesting to see how Tito Vilanova lines up his side and how effective it is.
Barcelona should look to get out on the attack right from the first whistle. If it scores an early goal, this match will be over. If Espanyol can hold on through the first half, it may manage to get a draw or snatch a goal and get the win.
More than likely, this will be an easy win for Barcelona. It will get a couple of goals and make the mountain for Espanyol to climb too great.
Prediction: Barcelona 3, Espanyol 0
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