Barca out to quieten noisy neighbours

MADRID - A team from Barcelona have a 100 percent home record this season, matched only by Real Madrid, but they are not coached by Pep Guardiola.

Espanyol are riding high in fourth in La Liga with seven wins from seven at Cornella-El Prat, and when Guardiola's Barcelona visit on Saturday they have promised to give their neighbours a traditionally hostile reception.

"It's a game with a lot of rivalry and intensity from both sides," Espanyol's Argentine coach Mauricio Pochettino told reporters. "It will be disputed rather than aggressive. I believe in positive rather than negative aggression."

Espanyol have a good record of ruffling Barca's feathers and in the corresponding fixture back in April, Guardiola's team were uncharacteristically defensive in outlook.

Barca had Dani Alves sent off after an hour and were harried, hurried and ultimately held to a 0-0 draw by the hosts in a niggly encounter.

Barca, however, go into the derby in irresistible form and with 40 points from 15 games they are already 12 ahead of Espanyol.

Barcelona have a 100 percent away record with seven wins from seven, are unbeaten in 21 outings, have won nine in a row and scored 26 goals in their last six games without reply.

"The two sides are in great form, each with their own qualities," Barca captain Carles Puyol told reporters. "It will be very tough... it is the most difficult away trip we have left this season."

Puyol's statement demonstrates the respect Barca have for Espanyol given that they still have to visit Real Madrid, who face Sevilla on Sunday.


Jose Mourinho's side are two points behind leaders Barcelona in second, and have recovered from their mauling in the 'clasico' to win three in a row.

They will be forced into a number of changes with Marcelo and Xabi Alonso suspended, and Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Ramos out injured, but Mourinho does not have as many problems as his counterpart Gregorio Manzano.

The former Real Mallorca boss has only been at Sevilla two months since replacing Antonio Alvarez, and he has seen his side's confidence ebb as they slipped to 11th.

A run of five consecutive defeats in all competitions ended with a 2-2 home draw against Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday, which saw them scrape through to the next round of the Europa League.

"It was important to savour something that felt like a victory again," Sevilla striker Frederic Kanoute told the club website.

"We have changed our mentality and this will help us with respect to other competitions."

Third-placed Villarreal are at home to Real Mallorca on Saturday and fifth-placed Valencia visit promoted Real Sociedad.