Valverde ready for ‘trial by fire’ in derby with Espanyol

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde on the touchline.

Espanyol have lost just once at home this season and Ernesto Valverde expects Barcelona to find it hard work in Saturday’s derby.

Ernesto Valverde expects an intense battle in the derby against Espanyol as Barcelona wait to see if Luis Suarez will be fit to feature on Saturday.

The LaLiga leaders make the short trip to their neighbours looking to become only the second visiting team after Girona to triumph at the RCDE Stadium this season.

Espanyol sit seventh in the table – just three points off fourth-placed Deportivo Alaves – under the guidance of head coach Rubi, who has made a positive impression since his arrival from Huesca in June.

“The distance of points does not count,” Valverde told the media. “This game plays a lot from the heart and little from the head.

“Beyond what happened against Girona, they have been very strong at home. It is a trial by fire and we all have a hard time winning away from home.

“I also hope there is respect everywhere and a good atmosphere on the field.

“I expect a close game with the chance of us breaking quickly and generating many scoring chances and if that happens, it should benefit us.”

Barcelona may be boosted by the return of Luis Suarez, the Uruguay striker having missed the last three games with a knee injury.

Valverde expects to have the player available after returning to training but will not take any unnecessary risks, meaning Lionel Messi may be pushed into a central role in the forward line if Suarez is again absent.

“He [Suarez] is having treatment and we think he can be [fit for] tomorrow,” he said.

“I do not want to worry any more than usual. We have to be careful and ensure that there aren’t any further problems.

“We also have the option of Munir, plus the other option to put Messi in there too, so there are possibilities.”

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