Spain

Barcelona v Espanyol

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Messi: Mighty magician

Messi: Mighty magician

Barcelona will be keen to keep their unbeaten run going as they entertain Espanyol at the Camp Nou in the 158th Catalan derby on Sunday.

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For the Blaugrana, Sunday will be about more than a match, as coach Tito Vilanova is set to return to the dugout after suffering a cancer relapse and undergoing surgery during the Primera Division winter break.

Barca are yet to be beaten in the league this season, winning all their matches besides the 2-2 draw against Real Madrid in October.

Their last victory before the winter break came against Real Valladolid, as they ran out 3-1 victors, Lionel Messi's 91st goal of the year a particular highlight on the day.

All eyes will once again turn towards the little magician after a record-breaking 2012 for the 25-year-old, where he became Barcelona's all-time goalscorer, as well as breaking Gerd Muller's record for goals in a calendar year.

On the injury front, Cesc Fabregas (hamstring), Adriano (thigh) and Alex Song (knee) all recovered from their respective injuries and returned to training during the break.

Isaac Cuenca could be set for his first appearance of the season, after returning from a knee injury suffered last season. Eric Abidal is also nearing return from a liver transplant.

Espanyol's fortunes, on the other hand, are in stark contrast to those of their local rivals. Blanquiblaus are definite relegation candidates this season with a mere 15 points from their 17 matches.

However, they have yet to lose a match under new coach Javier Aguirre since he took over in November, drawing four on the trott and winning against Deportivo La Coruna in the last match before the break.

Raul Rodriguez is a doubt for the game after he missed training due to illness, while goalkeeper Christian Alvarez will be handed a late fitness test after recovering from a hamstring strain.

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Posted: 05/01/13 17:56

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