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Pique Back For Barcelona v Espanyol Derby

‘Tata’ Martino’s rotation policy at Barcelona should lead to a raft of changes for the Catalan derby against Espanyol at the Camp Nou tonight.

Spanish international defender Gerard Pique is expected to the return to the starting line-up, after missing Barca’s 3-0 win over Celta Vigo earlier this week.

Full-back Adriano has been ruled out with a hamstring injury, and will likely be replaced by Martin Montoya, with Jordi Alba still nursing hamstring twang himself.

Barca’s strength in depth is frightening, and Espanyol will be mortified to see that all of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Neymar will start the match refreshed, as well as tackling terrier Javier Mascherano.

Martino knows Espanyol’s Mexican coach Javier Aguirre well, and he has predicted that Barca’s neighbours will present a difficult challenge in the derby.

There is no love lost between the two Catalan teams, and Martino is wary of Espanyol’s ability to mix winning ugly with moments of eye-catching brilliance.

“One of Espanyol’s characteristics is to be warrior-like and combative, but when they have the ball they can grow with players like Sergio Garcia, Pizzi and Simao who can play,” Martino said ahead of the game.

“They stand out for their fighting qualities, but you must be wary of them when they have the ball.”

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