Barcelona will be looking to find some overdue consistency in La Liga on Saturday but will find things tough at the home of their rivals Espanyol.
After beating Villarreal last weekend the Blaugrana moved back to the top of the pile and stayed there after Sevilla could only draw at Alaves. Given the issues that have blighted Barcelona throughout the campaign, manager Ernesto Valverde will be relieved to see his side still so high up the table.
Espanyol are in seventh and enjoyed a blistering start to the term. However, there's a sense Barcelona are playing against them at the right time, as their city rivals have lost their last three in succession in La Liga.
Nevertheless, expect a big reaction from the home side on Saturday and a hostile atmosphere at the Cornella-El Prat. Here are the odds for the game, the viewing details and a preview of what's to come.
Espanyol win (11/2)
Barcelona win (1/2)
Odds courtesy of OddsShark
Date: Saturday, December 8
Time: 7:45 p.m. (GMT), 2:45 p.m. (ET)
TV Info: beIN Sports (U.S.)
Barcelona got back to winning ways in La Liga last weekend, although there were still some aspects of their performance against Villarreal that were unconvincing.
Without Luis Suarez available the Catalan giants fielded Lionel Messi at the point of the attack, and while he still managed to grab an assist, his influence on the game wasn't as profound as it can be.
The game did feel like another step forward for Ousmane Dembele, though, as he continued his recent resurgence with a display of panache and productivity:
Dembele set up Gerard Pique for the opener, while there was also a big moment for Carles Alena, as he was assisted by Messi to score his first goal for the club.
The 20-year-old has impressed in the youth setup, and despite a wealth of midfield options Valverde has sought to integrate him more often into the first team.
As Samuel Marsden of ESPN FC relayed, the manager clearly feels he's now ready to play a part at senior level:
Barcelona won 4-1 over Cultural Leonesa in midweek in the Copa del Rey and the star man from that game was Denis Suarez, as he grabbed a brace.
Despite their poor recent form Espanyol will fancy their chances, as they've proved themselves to be a capable side in the Spanish top flight this season.
The worry for manager Rubi is the way in which the team's defensive structure has disintegrated recently, with the 3-0 loss to Getafe their worst performance of the campaign. Spanish football journalist David Cartlidge also commented on some issues they had against Girona in a 3-1 loss:
Per Marsden, Valverde has said he is hopeful Suarez will return from injury for this derby, and it would be a big boost for Barcelona if the Uruguayan was to lead the line.
Expect a motivated and aggressive Espanyol to turn this game into a battle. Even so, Barcelona appear to slowly be finding a groove and the extra quality they possess in midfield will see them through.
Prediction: Espanyol 1-2 Barcelona
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