Barcelona v Espanyol – Camp Nou at 15:15 GMT live at Sky Sports

La Liga returns from the international break with defending champions Barcelona appearing to cruise towards what appears to be a 26th domestic crown. The Catalans are enjoying a 10-point advantage of second-placed Atletico Madrid and return to league action with a derby date against Espanyol.

It’s a fixture that the Blaugrana have dominated in recent years. Looking purely at La Liga contests, Barca have remained unbeaten in this encounter since the 2008/09 season as they’ve claimed 15 wins from 19 unbeaten meetings with the Parakeets since. The hosts have won all nine showdowns at the Camp Nou too.

Those Camp Nou contests have been comfortable. Barcelona have won by at least a three-goal margin in six of their most recent seven head-to-heads here, leading at the interval in seven of those nine triumphs and conceding just twice in that same nine-game sample. It’s an imperious record that commands respect.

Barcelona to cruise to Catalan derby victory

Barcelona are again expected to take a cushy home success. The Blaugrana have W10-D3-L1 at the Camp Nou this season and Ernesto Valverde has seen his side return W16-D2-L0 when welcoming bottom-half La Liga opponents – 13 of those victories were achieved by a margin of two goals or more.

It’s therefore surprising to see the Catalan giants available to back with a -1.75 Asian Handicap hurdle at odds as big as 1.70. Lionel Messi’s withdrawal from the Argentina squad could have provided Espanyol a glimmer of hope, but it was thought to be precautionary and he’s expected to lead the hosts’ assault here.

Espanyol’s issues

Espanyol make the short journey across the city without two key regulars as central midfielder Sergi Darder is suspended, while defensive stalwart David Lopez is absent for just his 16th La Liga game since the start of the 2013/14, and the Parakeets will certainly miss him when trying to deal with Messi and co.

Head coach Rubi has guided the group well clear of the relegation zone in Spain, concentrating on producing a competitive team on home soil that garners the vast majority of their points against fellow bottom-half dwellers. Espanyol though have struggled on the road, and against the division’s leading lights.

The Parakeets have only won at basement-dwellers Huesca (W1-D6-L7) with W0-D2-L7 picked up away at clubs in 11th and higher. Meanwhile, the visitors have lost all eight encounters against the top-seven,  and also trailed at half-time and full-time in their last eight trips to either Barca or Real Madrid.

Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Barcelona -1.75 at 1.700

Preview by: @MarkOHaire.

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