Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Football European

Barcelona can edge closer to Real but Espanyol are feeling confident

By Mark Staniforth

Barcelona have the chance to make up ground on La Liga leaders Real Madrid this weekend, but will need to get the better of derby rivals Espanyol.

Real are not involved in domestic action as they take on Kashima Antlers in the Club World Cup final in Japan.

That gives Barca, who trail the capital club by six points, the opportunity to cut the gap heading into the winter break.

They will welcome Espanyol to the Nou Camp tomorrow buoyed by confirmation that one of their star men, Luis Suarez, has signed a new contract.

Espanyol, however, will go into the game in good heart themselves, having not been beaten in their last 10 games.

Midfielder David Lopez, who is preparing for his first derby in two years after returning to the club following a stint at Napoli, said: "It's a good time because the team has realised that it is capable of doing great things. We have confidence and morale is high, but we have our feet on the ground and we have to be humble and keep working."

Lopez believes Espanyol are capable of exploiting vulnerabilities in the Barca side.

He said: "We cannot defend the whole game because they will end up scoring. Barcelona force you to take steps back and we must try to keep them away from our box and take advantage of our opportunities to try to win."

Barca could actually be third in the table come kick-off, should Sevilla get the better of mid-table Malaga. Jorge Sampaoli's men got back to winning ways with a 3-0 success at Celta Vigo last weekend.

Sampaoli said: "I'm pleasantly surprised.

"I never imagined being in this position at this point when we started.

"Now the idea is to finish the year by keeping those points adding up, although we know, of course, the difficulties Malaga can create."

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph