Fri, May 24, 2013 - Page 20 News List

Barcelona wind up Espanyol with new-shirt stunt on statue

Reuters, MADRID

The statue of Christopher Colombus wears Barcelona’s new soccer jersey at Barcelona harbor in Spain on Wednesday.

Photo: Reuters

The adorning of Barcelona’s famous statue of Christopher Columbus with a giant replica of the team’s new shirt design has helped wind up their derby rivals RCD Espanyol for Sunday’s clash at the Cornella-El Prat.

The champions, with 94 points, are looking to match Real Madrid’s record La Liga mark of 100 achieved last season, and have to win their remaining two games away this weekend and at home to Malaga on June 1.

Espanyol, known as “the parakeets,” are in 11th place with nothing left to play for, but will be keen to spoil the aspirations of their more illustrious neighbors, who they believe receive more than their fair share of support from local institutions.

The city council said they had been paid for the publicity stunt and that the replica top, signed by some of the Barcelona players, would remain in place from Wednesday until June 9.

“Calling all the pigeons of Barcelona ... to the statue immediately to do what you have to do!!!” an Australia-based Espanyol fan club member with the handle #pericoz said on Twitter.

Some Espanyol fan groups, through an official statement, have already said they would turn their backs and whistle when their team do the traditional guard of honor to welcome the newly crowned champions on to the pitch.

With a Champions League playoff place, three Europa League berths and the three relegation slots still to be decided, all the La Liga matches kick off at 7pm on Sunday.

Real Sociedad and Valencia, fourth and fifth respectively with 62 points apiece, resume their duel for La Liga’s last ticket into Europe’s elite club competition.

Sociedad, who during the week revealed their coach Philippe Montanier had rejected a contract extension to return to his home country France with Stade Rennais, have the tougher assignment hosting second-placed Real Madrid.

Valencia visit lowly Granada, who have pulled away from the foot of the standings with an impressive run of five games unbeaten.

CA Osasuna in 16th place with 36 points host Sevilla, while RC Deportivo de La Coruna in 17th with 35, who visit Malaga, are looking nervously over their shoulders as the battle to avoid relegation nears its conclusion.

The clubs occupying the bottom three places, Real Zaragoza, one point from safety with 34, RCD Mallorca with 32, and basement side RC Celta de Vigo with 29, all play away at Real Betis Balompie, Copa del Rey winners Atletico Madrid and Real Valladolid respectively.

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