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Espanyol expect a hostile environment at Camp Nou on Saturday when Barcelona’s new manager Xavi Hernandez takes charge for the first time but they will do everything possible to deny their local rivals a victory, skipper David Lopez said on Friday.

The 41-year-old Xavi, who replaced the sacked Ronald Koeman earlier this month, has been tasked with rescuing Barca’s season with the club languishing ninth in LaLiga, 11 points adrift of leaders Real Sociedad and 10 behind Real Madrid.

The Barca great, who won 25 trophies in 17 years at the club, has issued a rallying cry to fans in the hope they will turn out in large numbers, bucking the trend of poor attendances in recent matches amid the team’s struggles.

“We are expecting a hostile environment,” Lopez told a news conference. “We will go out there to win. We have to believe in ourselves and beat them.”

Promoted Espanyol narrowly lost to Barca the last time the teams met in the top flight in July 2020 and their coach Vicente Moreno said they would have to be at their best to win.

“You have to go out there and perform. We can win this game by competing, doing well. That’s what we can control,” said Moreno, whose side also have 17 points but are two places below their city rivals on goal difference.

Espanyol’s 1-0 defeat by Barca last year effectively sealed their relegation after more than 25 years in the top flight.

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History will be against Espanyol on Saturday as Barca have a 13-match winning streak against them at home.

There is also the Xavi factor. As a player, Espanyol were the team against whom the former midfielder won the most games (25) and scored the most goals (6) and he will be hoping that inspires his team, but Moreno said he still had belief.

“We’re used to overcoming difficulties, suffering and surviving,” Moreno said.


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