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La Liga returns from break with Barcelona derby

La Liga returns from its winter holiday place Barcelona heads to the El Prat to face local rival Espanyol in the latest installment of the Barcelona derby.

Barcelona holds the edge in head-to-head wins in league play, claiming three points in 85 of the 153 meetings, while Espanyol has won 34 games against the Catalans. There have been 34 draws between the two rivals.

Lionel Messi, who sits second in La Liga's scoring chart, has never scored at Espanyol's new venue, which opened in 2009. His three career goals against the White and Blues have all come at Camp Nou.

But midfield maestro Xavi has proved to be instrumental in helping Barcelona to numerous victories over its fierce city rival over the years.

Xavi, while not having a reputation as a prolific goal-scorer, has managed to notch four goals against Espanyol in his career. He also completely dictated play in a 5-1 demolition of Espanyol in the corresponding fixture last season.

Barcelona has not played in a La Liga match since dispatching of Real Madrid with a 3-1 in El Clasico on Dec. 10, but it did claim the FIFA Club World Cup with successive 4-0 victories over Al Saad and Santos. The Catalans then kicked off the new year with two Copa del Rey wins by a combined score of 13-0.

Espanyol has won two games on the bounce in league play, defeating Atletico Madrid and Sporting Gijon in December before the holiday break.

Elsewhere on Sunday, Real Betis goes for its third-straight La Liga win when it hosts Sporting Gijon, Villarreal looks to win for the first time in five league contests when it hosts third-place Valencia, Getafe aims for a win over Athletic Bilbao that would see the two clubs go level on 22 points, and Sevilla heads to Rayo Vallecano with both sides hoping to put a stop to their prolonged losing streaks.

Saturday's fixture list is highlighted by Granada's trip to the Bernabeu where it will face La Liga leaders Real Madrid.

Granada is tied with three other teams on 19 points, but has lost just once in its last seven league matches, claiming 14 points over that stretch.

Real Madrid, meanwhile, is coming off of a comfortable 6-2 win over Sevilla that saw the leaders maintain their three-point advantage over Barcelona at the top of the table. Los Blancos occupy the pole position on 40 points through 16 games, and three points on Saturday would be essential to placing additional pressure on Barcelona ahead of the Catalan club's clash at Espanyol on Sunday.

Rounding out Spanish league action on Saturday, Levante hosts Mallorca, Racing hosts Zaragoza, Real Sociedad hosts Osasuna, and Malaga hosts Atletico Madrid.