Posted on November 30, 2007
Barcelona’s disappointing away form will come under the spotlight again this weekend when they make the short trip to city rivals Espanyol.
Barca have been heavily criticised for their lack of success away from the Nou Camp this season, with the team winning just one of their six league matches on their travels.
They have also won just one of their three away matches in the Champions League, although Tuesday’s 2-2 draw at Lyon was enough to guarantee Frank Rijkaard’s men both a spot in the last 16 and first place in the group.
“Our aim was to come top of the group, and we did that. That was important and we are very pleased,” said Rijkaard, who sent from the dug-out during the match.
Barca now need to re-focus on domestic matters, with this weekend’s derby promising to be a major test for Rijkaard and his men.
Espanyol are fourth in the Primera Liga standings, just two points behind third-placed Barca, and are unbeaten in their last nine matches, winning six.
Barca will again be without Thierry Henry for the clash, while Sylvinho, Deco, Oleguer and Edmilson are also set to be out.
Samuel Eto’o is another who is unlikely to play, but the Cameroon international is moving ever closer to a return after three months on the sidelines with a knee injury.
“A lot of people want to know if I will play on Saturday. All I know is that I have worked hard up until now. In football everything changes very quickly and moves so fast, that nobody knows,” Eto’o told Barca TV this week.
On Barca’s poor away form, Eto’o said: “At home the pitch is bigger and we can open up the play and play as we want to.
“Quite often the fields are smaller away from home and we have been unable to play our normal style, which is to push up and win possession.
“Espanyol are doing very well and playing well. They are up there on merit.”
It was a mixed week for Spain’s four Champions League participants.
Reigning champions and Primera Liga leaders Real Madrid lost 3-2 at Werder Bremen and will need a point from their final game to be sure of getting through, while Valencia’s participation in the tournament came to an end following their 0-0 home tie with Schalke.
Both clubs will be looking to recover from their setbacks this weekend, when Real host Racing Santander and Valencia meet Athletic Bilbao.
The only Primera Liga side to triumph in the Champions League this week was Sevilla, and they will be eager to emulate their performance in Tuesday’s 3-1 win over previously-undefeated Arsenal when they go to Almeria.
Sevilla have lost seven of their 12 league matches this season and are 14 points behind leaders Real, but confidence has soared following the European triumph.
“The league is very important. If we want to climb higher we have to start winning. We have to win this game, we cannot fail,” said Sevilla winger Jesus Navas.
“It is a key game, the same as it was against Arsenal.”
Also this weekend, second-placed Villarreal travel to Real Valladolid, free-scoring Atletico Madrid make the trip south to second-bottom Real Betis, Deportivo La Coruna host Osasuna and Real Murcia travel to Real Mallorca.
At the foot of the table, gradually-improving bottom club Levante go in search of a fourth win in five competitive matches when they travel to Getafe while Recreativo Huelva – the other team in the relegation zone – are at home to Real Zaragoza.