MADRID, Jan. 6 (Xinhua) -- January 6 is the day that the children in Spain are traditionally given their presents by the Three Kings and there will be no better present for the fans in FC Barcelona' s Camp Nou Stadium than to see Barca coach Tito Vilanova sat in the team dugout once again for the city derby at home to Espanyol.
It is just over two weeks since Vilanova underwent an operation following a reoccurrence of cancer in his parotid gland, but after his treatment, Vilanova returned to take training earlier in the week and will be there to direct his side for what could be a tougher game than expected.
Although Barcelona look to have the BBVA Primera Liga title in the bag even before the halfway point of the season thanks to their eight point lead over Atletico Madrid and 16 point advantage over Real Madrid, the club' s players have sounded notes of caution, saying they have to maintain concentration and keep their rivals at a distance.
Espanyol should on paper be easy rivals, but the second team from the city of Barcelona traditionally cause Barca problems and the 'blue and whites' have improved their form since the arrival of Javier Aguirre as first team coach.
That improved form saw Espanyol end 2012 with a draw away to Real Madrid and a home win against Deportivo la Coruna, which lifted them to third from bottom of the table with real options of avoiding relegation in the second half of the campaign.
Barca should be tougher rivals, however, but it is never easy to judge how sides will return after the short Christmas break and Espanyol will hope to take advantage of any rustiness in Vilanova' s side, who should be at full strength for the game.
Leo Messi kicks off 2013 after scoring 91 goals in 2012, a new world record, and who is to say he won' t be looking to improve on that this time around.
Meanwhile Carles Puyol will be able to play in defense despite suffering a deep cut above his eye in midweek while playing for the Catalan national side against Nigeria.
Espanyol will look to sit deep and frustrate Barca before hitting them on the break, many sides have used that tactic this season and so far it has only worked for Glasgow Celtic in the Champions League, but one thing is certain and that it that it will a close fought game and the most important person in the ground on Sunday will be Vilanova.