Barça prepared for a ‘physical’ Espanyol derby
ESPANYOL look set to get physical with Spanish leader Barcelona as they try to protect their perfect record at their Cornella El-Prat stadium in this weekend’s Catalan capital derby.
Espanyol have won all seven games played at the Cornella de Llobregat ground on the outskirts of Barcelona to sit a surprising fourth in the table with 28 points.
But Barcelona have won nine straight games to top the standings with 40 points and a 10th victory would hand Espanyol their second straight loss and could allow teams below to catch up ahead of the short 11-day winter break.
Espanyol coach Mauricio Pochettino was not afraid of stoking up what will likely be another heated derby.
“I believe in being aggressive in a positive sense, not a negative one,” said the Argentine coach, who was shown more red cards than any other player during his playing career with the club.
“We’re going to maintain our style. While there are elements that will change because of our rival, the identity of the team will be the same as always.”
Espanyol’s leading scorer Pablo Osvaldo said the team will show no fear despite Barcelona coming off an emphatic 5-0 win over Real Sociedad.
“We know we’re playing the best team in the world, but we’ve also got our own weapons,” said the Argentine striker, who has five goals this campaign. “We don’t have an Iniesta, a Xavi, a Messi, but we have other things. We’re united.”
Barcelona’s display against Sociedad showed why they are a favourite to win the Champions League, with Lionel Messi again leading the way with a pair of goals.
The defending Spanish champions picked their opponent apart with precise runs, immaculate passing and lethal finishing with nearly the entire game played inside Sociedad’s half.
”Both teams arrive in such great form,” Barcelona captain Carles Puyol said. “The game will be very difficult for both teams, it looks like it will be quite even.”
Real Madrid will be hoping Espanyol can protect their home record as they trail Barcelona by two points going into tomorrow’s game against Sevilla.
Madrid have won all 11 games played at their Santiago Bernabeu stadium, while Sevilla have lost four straight domestic matches.
Madrid will be without defensive players Xabi Alonso and Marcelo to suspension and striker Gonzalo Higuain to injury.
But midfielder Sami Khedira should return while Madrid are hopeful Sergio Ramos can be available despite initially being ruled out for the remainder of 2010 with a leg injury. – Sapa-AP