Barcelona host their city rivals on Sunday evening looking to maintain their lead at the top of the table over the Madrid clubs.
Barca are a mere 1.04 at Betfair to win the title and it would be a brave man to bet against them blowing their sixteen point cushion over Real Madrid or nine point advantage over Atletico.
Espanyol earned a hard fought point away to Real Madrid in their last away outing and followed it up with a 2-0 victory at home to relegation rivals Deportivo.
Javier Aguirre’s side are unbeaten in their last four and seem to be gaining momentum under the Mexican who took over in November. Aguirre will hope the winter break doesn’t disrupt the side’s momentum but there is rarely a good time to visit Barcelona. Espanyol have lost their last three in the Nou Camp, all to nil.
Well rested, we would expect Lionel Messi and friends to come out strongly as the Argentine starts a new year’s tally from scratch. It will take an incredible effort to top his 91 goals in 2012 but having scored all four in his side’s 4-0 win here in May, the price of 10/1 (Ladbrokes) against over 100 this year could quickly fall.
Another Messi hat-trick would not be a surprise and is 5/1 (Paddy Power). It is hard to see anything other than a dominating win for Barca. Espanyol won just one away game in 2012 and we do not expect them to get off the mark on Sunday.
Barcelona will however always give the opposition a chance of scoring and with two scored at the Bernabeu recently, Espanyol can be confident of hitting the target. Barca have also not kept a clean sheet in their last five league games and there is always the chance of being a little rusty after a few weeks off. A home win not to nil therefore looks a good bet at odds of 17/10 (Coral). We also like the odds of 50/1 (Coral) against a 4-2 win for Barca.