The new year of 2016 continues apace with Barça taking on Espanyol for the second time in the space of just five days. The league encounter on Saturday in the RCDE Stadium ended in a 0-0 draw with blaugrana boss Luis Enrique describing the result as ‘fair’. This Wednesday at 8.30pm CET the Catalan derby moves to Camp Nou for the first leg of the two clubs’ clash in the last 16 of the Copa del Rey.
The blaugranes trained for the final time on Tuesday ahead of the second of three meetings in 11 days against their city rivals (the second leg of the Cup tie is on Wednesday 13 February at the RCDE Stadium, kick off 9.00pm CET). Sergi Roberto missed the session with a slight knock and was not one of the 18 players named by coach Luis Enrique for the game at Camp Nou. The squad includes both Arda Turan andAleix Vidal, fresh from finally being registered officially as Barça players and having their shirt numbers assigned. The complete list is as follows: Ter Stegen, Masip, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio, Dani Alves, Arda Turan, A.Iniesta, Suárez, Messi, Neymar Jr, Mascherano, Bartra, Munir, Jordi Alba, Aleix Vidal, Vermaelen and Mathieu.
Espanyol coach Constantin Galca named a 19 man squad for his club’s trip across the city to face Barça. Missing due to injury is former blaugrana Víctor Sánchez, as are defender Arbilla and midfielder Cañas.Ciani and Mamadou come back into the squad but Rober Correa misses out.
“We shall play as if there is no second leg.” That was how Barça coach Luis Enrique defined his side’s approach to the game against Espanyol at Camp Nou in his pre-game press conference on Tuesday. With regards to the presence of both Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal in the squad, the Asturian revealed: “Both of them will get the chance to wear the Barça shirt and play a part in the match.”
Former Espanyol player Constantin Galca faces just his fifth game in charge of ‘los pericos’ since taking over in December from the sacked Sergio González. The Rumanian appeared in front of the press on Tuesday and admitted that following the stalemate in the league at the weekend, he expected an “FC Barcelona more in the game, with a desire to score and win. It will be an even more difficult game. We are up against the best team in the world and their players will want to win for reasons of pride.”
Barça’s 0-0 draw with Cup rivals Espanyol last weekend in the league allowed Atlético to take top spot in La Liga. However, the blaugranes do have a game in hand and are currently only two points behind Diego Simeone’s side. Luis Enrique’s team are the current Copa del Rey champions and have won 10 of their last 11 games in the competition.
Espanyol have won twice, drawn once and lost once in the four games they have played since Galca took over as coach, In his first game in charge his team claimed a 2-1 home win against Levante in the Copa del Rey, enough to give them a 3-2 victory on aggregate and a tie against city rivals FC Barcelona in the last 16.
Luis Enrique and Constantin Galca have at least one thing in common, both are now coaches at clubs where they featured as players. In fact, the two came up against each other on the field in no less than 10 Catalan derbies with the Barça boss winning on six occasions and drawing four. In the Copa del Rey the two Barcelona clubs have come across each other on 17 occasions, even meeting in the final way back in 1957, Barça coming out on top that day 1-0. The blaugranes have made it through to the next round in the last eight ties, the most recent a 3-2 aggregate win in the quarter-finals in 2008/09.