Sat, Dec 18, 2010 - Page 19 News List

Barcelona look to breach fortress of city rivals Espanyol

AFP, MADRID

Champions Barcelona aim to complete a fantastic 2010 by staying top of the Spanish first division for Christmas with their final fixture of the year a mouthwatering Catalan derby at high-flying Espanyol today.

Barcelona lie two points clear of arch-rivals Real Madrid after nine consecutive league wins but take on an Espanyol that are fourth and boast a perfect seven wins at home.

Barcelona have scored 21 goals in their last four league outings, including the 5-0 drubbing of Real Madrid, without conceding a single goal and go into the Espanyol game brimming with confidence.

“I have been at this club for many years and we have never been at this current level,” said Barcelona’s Spanish World Cup star Xavi. “It is a privilege to play in this Barca team and this group wants more and more every day. We don’t get tired of competing.”

Xavi is one of three players shortlisted for the 2010 Ballon d’Or along with his Barcelona team-mates Andres Iniesta and current holder Lionel Messi.

Messi has scored 17 league goals already this term and Barcelona hope to continue their perfect away record of seven wins, however, Espanyol have yet to drop a point at home so something has to give.

“When we play against them [Barcelona] we do so without fear, pressing them and imposing our style,” said Espanyol’s Raul Baena. “Last season [0-0 at the Cornella-El Prat] it turned out well for us.”

Meanwhile, third-placed Villarreal hope to continue their impressive home run with victory over Real Mallorca today. Villarreal are unbeaten at El Madrigal with six wins and a draw.

Fifth-placed Valencia travel to the Basque country to take on promoted Real Sociedad today.

Additional reporting by staff writer

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