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Espanyol v Barcelona preview: Visitors face tricky trip in Catalan derby

Head coach Luis Enrique Martinez of FC Barcelona
Image: Luis Enrique: His Barca side remain on course for second treble

Barcelona can take a huge step towards sealing a fifth La Liga title in seven years when they visit local rivals Espanyol in the Catalan derby on Saturday afternoon.

Luis Enrique's men remain on course for just the second treble in the club's storied history after easing past Paris Saint-Germain 5-1 on aggregate to reach the Champions League semi-finals in midweek.

Barca lead Real Madrid by two points at the top of the table with six games remaining and their trip to the Power8 Stadium this weekend - along with a visit to Atletico Madrid on the penultimate day of the season - appear to be the only matches in which Luis Enrique's men are in danger of dropping points.

La Liga Football

"I hope that the best is still to come," said Enrique. "That is why the players have worked since the start of the season to fight for titles."

However, there is never any love lost for Barca when they travel across the Catalan capital and Espanyol 'keeper Kiko Casilla wants to reward their long-suffering fans with a first derby win since 2009.

"We are desperate to play well. We know there will be a good crowd and we want to show what we can do," he said.

"We are in a city where the blue and white colours are seen less often, but the fans are proud of this team and we want to show that.

"A derby is different to the rest of the games. To face (Lionel) Messi, (Luis) Suarez, Neymar, Xavi, (Andres) Iniesta, it motivates you more. We don't have fear of anyone, but great respect for those players because any of them can cause you problems."

League leaders Barca boast a 12-match unbeaten streak against their city rivals, with Espanyol victorious just four times in the last 46 derby meetings.

A win on Saturday would put Barca five points clear at the top of the league for 24 hours at least, with closest rivals Real Madrid travelling to Celta Vigo on Sunday.

Team news

Neymar of Barcelona celebrates with Daniel Alves (front) as he scores their second goal against PSG
Image: Neymar celebrates with Daniel Alves against PSG

Barca will be at full strength as Luis Enrique was able to afford the luxury of withdrawing the likes of Iniesta, Suarez and Sergio Busquets in the second half against PSG with the tie comfortably won.

Neymar netted two goals against the Ligue 1 side to take his season tally to 30, leaving him second in the team behind Lionel Messi's 46. Luis Suarez has also come into his own with 19 goals.

The attacking trio has Barca in position to win three titles, with Luis Enrique's team also in the Copa del Rey final.

"We are alive and in good shape in three competitions," Neymar said. "I'm very happy with my performance this season, but above all I'm happy with the work of all the team."

Felipe Caicedo (L) of RCD Espanyol
Image: Felipe Caicedo: Espanyol's main threat

Espanyol's fans see the chance to trip Barcelona up as its biggest game left this season.   

Tenth-place Espanyol will be missing Victor Sanchez, one of coach Sergio Gonzalez's most used players, as the former Barca midfielder serves a one-game suspension.

But Espanyol are unbeaten in six matches and will be able to count on forward Sergio Garcia, one of the best in the league at creating goals with little space and even less help.

Striker Felipe Caicedo is the other main threat and the former Manchester City man has three goals this month.

"We believe we can fight and play a great game," Caicedo said. "We are on a good run and we want to make the most of playing at home where our fans will support us from the very start. It's a great opportunity to show that we are strong at our stadium."

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