x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Barcelona-Espanyol rivals need to show some sporting spirit

Andy Mitten: Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino will meet before the game in a love thy neighbour act which does not extend as far as those in power, nor to the fans.

Relations between Barcelona and their neighbours Espanyol really need to improve. The pair, who meet on Sunday, were dignified following the death of Espanyol's captain Dani Jarque in 2009.

Barca sent a delegation to pay their respects, while Andres Iniesta continues to be applauded by Espanyol fans - which is unheard of for a Barca player. After scoring the winning goal in the 2010 World Cup final, Iniesta unveiled a shirt dedicated to the memory of Jarque, his former teammate.

Barca and Espanyol fans still loathe each other, and recent derbies have been tainted by racism and violence from extremist fans.

Rather than work towards solutions, both clubs criticise each other in the media. Now, Espanyol are refusing to give Barcelona tickets for Sunday's game because Barca will not give Espanyol information about whom the tickets are being sold to, something Espanyol are demanding to help prevent trouble.

It does not help the already pernicious atmosphere which surrounds the game. At least the two coaches, among the longest serving in Spain, communicate. Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino will meet before the game in a love thy neighbour act which does not extend as far as those in power, nor to the fans.

The players do respect each other, having often played against or with each other for years.

Footballers are often criticised for their conduct but when it comes to Barca and Espanyol, they are the only parties who behave with any dignity.