Barça’s last game of the year at the Camp Nou is at home to Espanyol (20.00, Gol TV, Canal + Liga and R@dio Barça). A win would ensure they end 2009 top of the league.
The Camp Nou bids farewell to a historic 2009 with one of the biggest games of the year: the local derby. Barça have a memorable twelve months behind them in which they have played wonderful football and collected title after title, rounded off recently against Inter Milan, Madrid and Dynamo Kiev. The Clubs World Cup has yet to come, yet another great challenge for Barça. But before they fly off to Abu Dhabi, the team has another matter to deal with. A win against Espanyol will ensure that Barça will be able to celebrate the festive season as league leaders.
Looking at the history between these two sides, Barça have little to fear against the ‘parakeets’. In 75 visits to FCB territory, the blue and whites have lost 57 times and have only managed to come away with any points at all on 18 occasions (9 wins and 9 draws). But in more recent encounters, Espanyol have come out of this fixture very well indeed. They have avoided defeat in four of their last fives visits, and of course last year, picked up a shock 2-1 win.
Like that day, both teams are coming into this game in starkly contrasting situations. Barça are looking as solid as ever, and have just won five games on the trot. This has seen them into the next round of both the Copa del Rey and the Champions League, and they are back on top of the league table. For the other team in the city, though, these are difficult times. Unable to score with regularity, they are already out of the Cup and following four straight defeats are suddenly dicing with the relegation zone. Such a gap between the sides would suggest this is an obvious home win, but as we have seen so many times in the past, when it comes to the derby, the form book often goes right out the window. It may sound like a cliché, but in recent years this has certainly held true.
Both sides are missing key players. For Barça, Leo Messi is out after spraining his ankle in Kiev. The Argentinian is also in doubt for the Clubs World Cup. However, he’ll be there before the match to share his Balon d’Or with the fans. Espanyol, meanwhile, are coming without either De la Peña or Tamudo, curiously enough the only two players in the side that have scored league goals at the Camp Nou since 2001.