Espanyol v Barcelona
This Sunday brings up a very intriguing Barcelona Derby in LaLiga Santander, one in which Barcelona can mathematically clinch the title with a win. Meanwhile, Espanyol need every possible point as they are in the thick of the relegation scrap.
Their meeting earlier in the season finished 1-1 at the Camp Nou, as a Joselu penalty cancelled out an early Marcos Alonso goal. Barcelona did absolutely dominate that game, though, winning the xG battle 2.33 to 0.88, with Espanyol’s only shot on target being the penalty of their top scorer Joselu.
This time, Barcelona will be merciless and aim to pick apart an Espanyol team that has become more direct and attacking in recent weeks under new coach Luis García.
This Barcelona Derby will be broadcast in the UK on ITV4, so many will be looking for some Espanyol vs Barcelona bet builder predictions and there are several bet builder tips worth taking note of ahead of this decisive game.
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Motivated Espanyol should go out all guns blazing… but may be picked apart
When plotting an Espanyol bet builder this weekend, keep in mind that this is Espanyol’s biggest fixture by far this season. Not only are they hosting their hated city rivals, but they’re doing so on the night they could become champions, so they’ll give everything to try to prevent Barça becoming mathematical title holders on their turf at the RCDE Stadium.
On top of that, Espanyol have their own very pressing reasons for seeking the three points. They enter Matchday 34 second bottom and three points from safety. Given that this is the late Sunday kick-off, Luis García’s men could be even further adrift by the time of kick-off.
Because of all these motivational reasons, expect Espanyol to really go for it in this game. Whereas the Catalan side have often sat back and tried to play for a draw in previous Barcelona Derbies, they need the three points here and we should see a very attack-minded starting XI from Luis García.
This has been the case so far. Before the former player’s arrival in the dugout, Espanyol were 10th in LaLiga for attempts per possession, but now they’re second in that department. When they have the ball, they throw men forward and get the ball to star striker Joselu, who has 14 goals this LaLiga Santander season, the third most in the division. He has been averaging 1.25 shots on target per game the last four matches, up from his season average of 0.86.
However, Espanyol have had several games where they’ve been too gung-ho, leaving spaces at the back. That’s why they have a record of just one win, one draw and four defeats under the new coach. And, Espanyol have even given up leads by arguably not being conservative enough. In their past two defeats, they actually had the lead in both games, but still lost. Against Barcelona, they could be picked apart with this approach.
Espanyol Team News
The good news about this Barcelona Derby from a neutral’s perspective, and for all those wanting a little more certainty when it comes to constructing a Barcelona or an Espanyol bet builder, is that neither team has many absences.
On the Espanyol side, the only absence is José Gragera, a 22-year-old midfielder who only arrived in January and who has been only an occasional starter. That means Espanyol coach Luis García can field his ideal line-up for this derby.
The Espanyol coach’s main decision will be about which formation to use. His six matches so far have seen him go: back four, back four, back three, back four, back three, back three. So, that is the real mystery when making any Espanyol vs Barcelona predictions.
Most local Espanyol beat writers expect the back three to be used here, but in an attacking sense as Espanyol will field three attack-minded midfielders and their out-and-out strikers Joselu and Martin Braithwaite.
Barcelona set out to clinch the LaLiga title
LaLiga leaders Barcelona can seal the title with a win against Espanyol on Sunday, meaning they’d regain the crown for the first time since 2018/19. There is a chance they could be champions before kick-off, but that would require Real Madrid to lose to Getafe at home and Atlético Madrid to be beaten by bottom-team Elche. That means that the most likely case is that Barcelona seal their own destiny in this Sunday night game.
At the RCDE Stadium, Barcelona have only won on one of their last five trips, way back in 2018, with one defeat and three draws, but there has never been such a substantial points difference between the two teams ahead of a meeting, with Barcelona top and 51 points ahead of 19th-placed Espanyol.
In terms of Espanyol vs Barcelona stats, Xavi is unbeaten as a coach against his Catalan rivals and won 25 of 36 meetings as a player. The former midfielder could seal his first league title in the dugout and give the perfect send-off to Sergio Busquets, who announced this week that he’ll leave the club this summer.
That means that the Barcelona side who travel to Cornellà de Llobregat for this game are more motivated than ever. They’re also in good form, with back-to-back wins against Real Betis and Osasuna. A rare period of 12 days’ rest will also mean that they will have their stars, such as Pedri and Ousmane Dembélé, who both recently returned from injury, in top shape and raring to go.
Barcelona Team News
The only absentee that Xavi thought he may have to handle is Sergi Roberto, but he has made a full recovery, and will be available if needed. Both Gavi and Raphinha have fully recovered from knocks picked up against Osasuna in their last outing.
The big decision for the coach will be how he handles having so many options available in attack, and that will impact any Barcelona predictions.
In recent weeks, Gavi has lined up on the left wing as an interior forward, but with Ousmane Dembélé back to full fitness, he will have a decision to make in terms of how to set up his team with Raphinha and Robert Lewandowski also in contention.
In midfield, Pedri and Frenkie de Jong will likely accompany Busquets, with their usual back five of Marc-André ter Stegen, Jules Koundé, Ronald Araújo, Andreas Christensen and Alejandro Baldé.
Espanyol v Barcelona Cheat Sheet
In terms of Espanyol vs Barcelona stats, it’s impossible not to centre in on the two strikers of these two teams, Joselu and Robert Lewandowski. While the latter is the division’s top scorer with 19 goals, Joselu’s joint-third-best tally of 14 is mightily impressive considering he is on a relegation-battling side.
Both strikers are high-volume shot-takers too, with Lewandowski taking 4.25 shots per 90 minutes and Joselu 2.57.
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Espanyol v Barcelona
Barcelona are obviously the big brother in this rivalry, but they haven’t actually had too great a record over the years at the RCDE Stadium. They’ve won just once on their past five visits, with three draws and one Espanyol win.
However, Espanyol have usually managed to achieve these results by sitting back and playing for a draw, occasionally hitting Barça on the break.
On Sunday night, their situation at the bottom of the table, where they’ll be at least three points from safety, means they cannot do that.
And, Barcelona, who have the second-most counter-attacking goals in the division, are perfectly set up to pick Espanyol apart if they over-commit and to win the title in emphatic fashion.
The last 10 Catalan derbies have only seen Barcelona collect more cards than Espanyol once, and there is every reason to believe that the trend could continue given that the home team picked up 13 more yellow cards and five more red cards than Barcelona this season.
Referee Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea has shown Espanyol more cards than Barcelona throughout his career, with 2.63 per 90 for Espanyol and 2.19 for Barça. He has one previous Derbi to his name, showing Espanyol four cards and Barcelona two at the RCDE Stadium when the teams met in the Copa del Rey in 2018.
No player in LaLiga has been shown as many cards as Óscar Gil this season, with 12 meaning that he averages a yellow card once every 185 minutes of football played.
That makes this selection a good Espanyol prediction for any Espanyol bet builder, but particularly of late. In his last five games alone, he has picked up three yellow cards.
And now he comes up against Barcelona, who rank third for fouls suffered in LaLiga with 10.81 per 90. Gil could come up against a tricky customer in Dembélé or Raphinha, while even the alternative is Gavi, who is no stranger to engaging in physical battles and who is not afraid to play dirty.
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