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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Nov 29, 2007

Espanyol hoping to extend Barca jinx in derby

MADRID, Nov 29 (Reuters) - High-flying Espanyol get a rare opportunity to overtake city rivals Barcelona in the Primera Liga when the two teams meet in the Catalan derby at Montjuic on Saturday (2100 GMT).

A nine-match unbeaten run has catapulted Ernesto Valverde's side to fourth in the table, just two points adrift of Barca, who have yet to hit their stride this season.

'It comes at a very special moment for us and is one of the most evenly balanced derbies in recent memory,' Espanyol striker Raul Tamudo said.

'After the difficult times the club has had in recent years it is great that we have at last found some peace and stability.

'We are in good shape and being up there in the top part of the table has given us a lot of confidence. If we play well we will get a positive result.'

Accustomed to living in the shadow of their illustrious neighbours, Espanyol managed to wrest some attention away from Barcelona last season by reaching the final of the UEFA Cup and then playing an instrumental role in denying them the title.

They beat Barca 3-1 at home in January and a last-gasp equalider from Tamudo earned them a 2-2 draw at the Nou Camp in the penultimate game of the season, turning the title race decisively in Real Madrid's favour.

While Espanyol try to extend their recent jinx over Barcelona, Racing Santander, currently seventh, will be aiming to upset league leaders Real Madrid.

'The team is in phenomenal shape and we are getting some great results so we have is no reason to complain,' said Racing striker Pedro Munitis, a former Real player.

'It will be a very difficult match and we know what it is like to play at the Bernabeu but we've got a chance.'

Eyes will also be on Sunday's match between Real Betis and Atletico Madrid.

Both teams were involved in 4-3 thrillers last weekend, Atletico getting the better of Valladolid in stoppage time and Betis losing to basement side Levante.

Defeat would heap the pressure on Betis boss Hector Cuper whose future at the club has been thrown into doubt after just two wins in 13 matches.

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