La Liga Betting: Barça to beat Espanyol in derby



The statue of Christopher Columbus in Barcelona has been dressed in a giant replica of the new Barça shirt ahead of the local derby against Espanyol. The latter will have to form a guard of honour for the newly-crowned champions, though fan groups have already declared their intention to turn their backs and whistle during the formality. Espanyol striker Sergio Garcia said it would be perfect to beat their Catalan foes: "It would be a great end to the season to achieve the first victory against Barcelona at the Cornellà." The team will wear t-shirts for left-back Víctor Álvarez, who underwent heart surgery on Thursday.

The Camp Nou looked like a crèche as players brought their babies onto the pitch in celebration as they received the La Liga title. In an emotional moment manager Tito Vilanova and Erić Abidal jointly hoisted the trophy above their heads. Víctor Valdés said his goodbyes to teammates in a private meal for nearly 50 guests. The goalkeeper's attention to detail and kindness meant that cooks and security staff from the club were also in attendance. Monaco currently look the favourites for his signature.

Another player wanted by Europe's elite is young Thiago. A number of sides are queuing up to take advantage of an €18 million release clause triggered by limited appearances for this summer only. Fellow midfielder Xavi offered this advice: "I would tell him to be patient because he’s destined to be a key player here and to succeed." The playmaker underwent a similar dilemma earlier in his career when he was pursued by Manchester United.

Team news

Joan Capdevila will return to the left of defence for Espanyol. Juan Forlín and Víctor Álvarez are likely to give the midfield a solid base after serving their suspensions.

Javier Mascherano returned last weekend and is expected to be at the back again, and a number of players that have been linked with moves away will probably feature, including Thiago and Alexis Sánchez.

Form

It's no wins in four for Espanyol, but they can't complain too much given the predicament they found themselves in when Javier Aguirre took over the team. Barcelona have won three consecutive matches since their exit from the semi-final of the Champions League, but have conceded in all of those matches. Both teams to score is at 1.55.

Recent head-to-head

Since the Cornellà-El Prat opened in 2009, the sides have met three times at the ground. Espanyol have held their opponents on two occasions, and it's 3.90 for another draw.

Goalscorer betting

With so many rumours doing the rounds, a number of players may still feel they have something to prove. Cesc Fábregas is at 7.25 to score first, with Sánchez at 7.00 and Thiago at 11.50. Top scorer Juan Verdú has nine for the campaign and is a decent 4.30 to reach double figures.

Verdict

There's only pride to play for but no one wants to lose a derby, whatever the circumstances. It's unlikely either side will run away with it, so back a slender victory for Barça at 1.55.

Bonus bet

There have been late goals in the last two Blaugrana matches and Nelson Olivera punished Espanyol in stoppage time last week. Back a goal to be scored in the final 15 minutes of the match at 1.75.

Score prediction: Espanyol 1-2 Barcelona (8.25)