La Liga: Barcelona vs. Espanyol

It’s time for the Catalan derby again but neither team is in the mood for letting off fireworks and celebrating. Barcelona are immersed in an internal crisis and this is starting to reflect in their results. Last weekend they were surprisingly held to a two – two draw away to relegation strugglers Recreativo de Huelva, and the Catalan giants have failed to win in the last three matches. After this game Barca must travel to Deportivo de la Coruña, always a difficult encounter to predict, then face Valencia at home and then the big game of the season; Real Madrid at the Bernabeu stadium. If Barcelona aren’t careful Madrid could be champions of the league even before that game kicks off.
Espanyol are in an even worse position than their city rivals and their season seems to have imploded. They have picked up just nine points from their last fourteen games (three wins and eleven defeats) and are currently on a four match losing streak. Coach Ernesto Valverde could be seeing his job in jeopardy if his side doesn’t perform well here, but it won’t be until the end of the season. He has even been linked to the Barcelona post, as it is quite obvious now that Frank Rijkaard won’t be continuing next season, along with quite a few of the players.
Espanyol’s emblem captain, Raul Tamudo, is fit and should start the game, although he hasn’t scored a goal since the three nil win over Villarreal in January. You may remember he was out with a broken arm for a long time, and he seems to be having problems getting back into his old goal scoring ways. It was Tamudo who practically gave Real Madrid the league title last season when he scored against Barcelona in the last minute to give Espanyol the draw and deny Barcelona the three points.
Espanyol will have to do without ex-Barca midfielder Ivan de la Peña who is still out injured, and Fredson Camara, Jesús Mari Lacruz and Julián López de Lerma will also miss this derby.
As for Barcelona, Ronaldinho won’t be playing and as I have said before, he will never wear the Barca shirt again. Also out are Thierry Henry and Andres Iniesta, but Deco has made a miraculous recovery and shows no reason not to make an appearance.
I’m going for a draw here. Espanyol haven’t won at the Nou Camp for god knows how many years, but Barcelona at the moment are not playing any good football and seem to be pinning all their hopes on beating Manchester United and getting to the final of the Champions league.
Prediction: Draw (1-1)

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