Barcelona Revel in Real Madrid Rivalry, but Espanyol Remains Most Bitter Clash

Rik Sharma@@riksharma_Featured ColumnistMarch 28, 2014

Expect Saturday's game to be entertaining.
Expect Saturday's game to be entertaining.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

We all know about the rivalry between Barcelona and Real Madrid, but it shouldn’t overshadow the more historical battle between the Catalan giants and Espanyol.

El Clasico clashes are the matches that people look forward to most in Spanish football, but there is a lot of historical significance and bitterness in the Barcelona derby.

The first time Espanyol and Barcelona met back in 1900 resulted in a goalless draw. It has been more one-sided since then.

In the last four seasons, Barcelona have won six of the seven La Liga clashes—scoring 19 goals to Espanyol’s two.

However, this season, Tata Martino’s side have been shakier and travelling to the Estadi Cornella-El Prat won’t be an easy task.

Barca's team will be cautious against Espanyol.
Barca's team will be cautious against Espanyol.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Barcelona have pulled out the stops for the big games, but have been tripped up by lesser opponents.

And even though for Blaugrana supporters Espanyol don’t represent a threat—rather like how Chelsea view Fulham—the other side of the story is rather different.

Espanyol resent their grander neighbours, and Javier Aguirre’s team will be fired up for the clash on Saturday afternoon.

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They will see this match as their Champions League final. Barcelona are Espanyol’s biggest rivals, even if the feeling isn't reciprocated.

Back in the 1920s, the fixture turned violent—with clashes between supporters meaning a couple of games were played behind closed doors.

When the Spanish Civil war broke out and the national football league had to stop, both Barcelona and Espanyol kept going by playing in minor competitions, as per ESPN.

In that article, Francesc Tomas writes:

As a result, the Barcelona directors had the brilliant idea of spending most of this adverse period touring across South and Central America, which also enabled them to collect a considerable amount of money in the process. From that moment on, the distance between Barcelona and Espanyol began to grow in sporting, social and political terms.

While the Blaugrana managed to win a large number of the competitions entered, gradually expanding their Catalan-minded fan-base in the process, their local rivals struggled for years due to lack of sporting success, funding and the ability to attract new supporters.

There is bad blood between the teams and, although not as strong now as it once was, the feeling is that Espanyol represent Spain while Barcelona stand for Catalonia.

Of course, there are many Catalan supporters of Espanyol who don’t associate with that viewpoint.

But, for some time at least, Barcelona viewed their local rivals as a "mini-Madrid."

Inside Spanish Football say: “Most of Barcelona’s citizens saw Espanyol as compliers of Franco’s reign whereas FC Barcelona were the revolutionaries looking to gain autonomy for their land.”

The name of the club represents Spain as well, translating as “Spanish.”

Many Pericos—the nickname for Espanyol fans, meaning budgies—believe that supporting the club is the right thing to do, getting what you deserve from the effort you put in.

But, if you walk around the city and look in sports shops, you’ll find more Real Madrid shirts than Espanyol jerseys.

Spotting Espanyol shirts in Barcelona is tricky.
Spotting Espanyol shirts in Barcelona is tricky.Andres Kudacki/Associated Press

Barcelona have annoyed Espanyol in various other ways too.

Espanyol president Joan Collet blasted the Blaugrana last year for poaching too many graduates from the club’s academy.

He claimed that what Barcelona were doing was “shameful,” after five youngsters who had progressed through Espanyol’s ranks joined Barcelona.

As per Reuters, he said:

For a start, staff and coaches from other clubs will not be allowed to watch training sessions if they do not have permission or a prior appointment. And we will oblige players selected by the coaching staff to sign a training contract. We are not here to produce players for other clubs.

Collett has also been more vocal than most about Barcelona and Real Madrid’s television income.

There is discomfort among most clubs in Spain about how much the biggest two sides in the country earn from cutting their own slice with the TV companies.

As per Inside Spanish Football, he said:

This competition is not fair and it verges on fraud. We’ve entered a dark alley and we must copy the model for the distribution of television rights from other leagues, like the Premier League. Not so long ago, all the clubs spent what they didn’t have. Football was in a bubble. Now the game is in complete crisis and the model has broken down.

It’s not all one way traffic though.

As we saw on Thursday on Bleacher Report, Espanyol have stuck one in Barcelona’s eye before.

The Tamudazo, which stopped the Blaugrana from lifting the title in the 2006-7 season, is one of the club’s proudest moments.

Goalscorer Raul Tamudo is a club legend, and was booed by Barcelona fans as recently as March 2013 when he played at Camp Nou with Rayo Vallecano.

When it comes down to trophies, however, Barcelona's haul far outweighs that of their rivals.

Martino’s side have won La Liga 22 times, the Copa del Rey 26 times and the Champions League on four occasions.

Barca are accustomed to success.
Barca are accustomed to success.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Espanyol, meanwhile, have won the Copa del Rey four times, and twice finished runners up in the UEFA Cup—now the Europa League.

Their most recent achievement was reaching the final of the latter competition in 2007, when they lost on penalties to La Liga rivals Sevilla.

When the teams meet on Saturday, it will be silverware on Barcelona’s mind, as they seek to beat Real and Atletico Madrid to the La Liga title.

No such glory is at stake for Espanyol. Instead, they are playing for something far more painful to lose—pride.

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