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Barca resume Espanyol rivalry

La Liga leaders Barcelona face what could be a fiery encounter against aggrieved neighbours Espanyol this weekend, while second-placed Atletico Madrid face a tricky game…

La Liga leaders Barcelona face what could be a fiery encounter against aggrieved neighbours Espanyol this weekend, while second-placed Atletico Madrid face a tricky game against Valencia.

Sunday’s Catalonia derby is the third meeting in a little more than two weeks between Barca and their less glamorous opponents after a bitter two-legged King’s Cup quarterfinal that escalated the ill feeling between the two Barcelona clubs.

Espanyol beat their local rivals for the first time in nine years in the first leg, but Barcelona advanced to the semifinals by winning the return leg 2-0, with post-match comments from Barca duo Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique rubbing salt in the wounds.

Busquets criticised Espanyol for what he said were overzealous celebrations after the first leg, while Pique mocked Espanyol’s city credentials by calling them “Espanyol de Cornella”, referring to its home municipality. The barbs prompted an official complaint from Espanyol, accusing the players of inciting violence.

The first leg at Espanyol’s RCDE stadium had been played in a prickly atmosphere and Barca goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen was hit in the face by an object thrown by home supporters.

La Liga officials have described this Sunday’s derby as a high-risk event, requiring increased policing, but Espanyol goalkeeper Diego Lopez called on his side’s supporters to ensure there is a good-natured atmosphere and to resist any urges to abuse their opponents.

“The fans should go to the derby to support the team and not focus on any opposition player,” he told reporters.

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