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Espanyol vs. Barcelona: 3 things that will shape Catalan derby

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Travelling to Espanyol for the Catalan derby is probably Barcelona's most troublesome fixture left to play with the possible exception of Atletico Madrid in their penultimate match of the season.

The Periquitos always seem to raise their game at home when Barca travel the few miles to Cornella, as they always did when there was only a few hundred yards separating the two grounds, Camp Nou and Estadio Lluis Companys.

Passion

In 10th position with evidently nothing much to play for - too high to be relegated, too far off of the pace to make a play for a European place - Espanyol can be a dangerous opponent for table-toppers Barca.

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Let's take a look at three things that could shape the outcome of this one.

Head to head

The head to head record between the teams is one-sided to say the least. Since 2005, Espanyol have beaten Barca just twice. Once at home in 2007 and once away at Camp Nou in 2009, when ex-Barca man Ivan de la Pena plundered a brace.

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Other than those matches and a handful of drawers, Barca have been the comprehensive victors. Earlier this season, Lionel Messi bagged a hat-trick as the Blaugrana tore their local rivals apart 5-1.

It's unlikely to be quite so easy this time, but given how well Barca are playing, you would be hard pressed to bet against them taking all three points.

Current form

Barcelona are far and away the form team in the division, having only lost one game in 2015 to Malaga, drawn one to Sevilla and won all the rest.

Espanyol can't compare with that but they can boast a six-game unbeaten run going into this one.

Javi Lopez and Victor Sanchez continue to pull the strings in the centre of midfield for the home side and wins over Villarreal and Athletic Club, coupled with a draw against Atletico Madrid, shows that they won't be any pushovers.

If Barca don't impose themselves early on, this could be a long, hard afternoon in their least preferred kick off time of 3pm on Saturday.

Isolation

Luis Enrique will try to ensure that Ruben Duarte in particular is isolated as quickly as possible by Lionel Messi.

The left back will need to be on his toes against a reinvigorated Messi and if the Argentine can also draw Hector Moreno out of position, Barca will make in roads down that side of the pitch.

Dani Alves too will be tasked with pinning Duarte back as much as possible. With so much of Espanyol's attacking intent reliant on the width provided by him and Anaitz Arbilla, the hosts are almost redundant as an attacking force without them.

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Topics:
Football
La Liga
Lionel Messi
Luis Suarez
Neymar
Barcelona

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