Espanyol vs Barcelona Match Preview: Classic Encounter, Key Battle, Team News & More

Barcelona make the 10km journey to Espanyol on Sunday afternoon ahead of the fourth derbi barceloni of the season following the pair’s meeting in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals last month. 

Despite a close contest in the cup, Blaugrana travel to the Estadi Cornellà-El Prat with a 33-point advantage over their closest geographical neighbours in La Liga, and will be keen to emulate their emphatic 5-0 win during the reverse fixture back in September. 

Barcelona v Espanyol - La Liga

However, Ernestro Valverde’s side will be cautious in the knowledge of Periquitos’ victory when the two last met in the south-west suburb of Cornella de Llobregat, which ended the league leaders’ unbeaten run across all competitions in January. 

So, ahead of this Sunday’s derbi barceloni, let’s take a look at everything you need to know…


Classic Encounter

Barcelona 2-2 Espanyol – 2007

Meetings between Barcelona and Espanyol do not come much more historic than when the two faced off in 2007. 

Despite going a goal behind midway through the first half, Lionel Messi notched a brace either side of the break to put Blaugrana into the lead, a much-needed lead considering their title predicament

Barcelona v Espanyol

Going into the late-season clash, Real Madrid were favourites to be crowned La Liga champions but found themselves a goal behind at Real Zaragoza, and if things had remained, would have been heading into the final test of the campaign three points removed from their Clasico rivals. 

However, with things seemingly swaying in the favour of those packed into the Camp Nou, over in Zaragoza Ruud van Nistelrooy had levelled things up, then, just 18 seconds later, heartbreak hit Barca. 

Espanyol striker Raul Tamudo sneaked in behind the hosts’ defence and slid his attempt past the spread eagle keeper to level things up, not only in the tie but also in the title chase, however, Los Blancos held the upper hand in the head-to-head. 

Espanyol players celebrate after Raul Ta...

Real Madrid would go on to win the title that year, and had it not been for the final minute lapse in concentration from the Barcelona back line against this weekend’s visitors 11 years ago, Barcelona could well have another championship to their name. 


Key Battle

Luis Suarez vs Diego Lopez

It seems quite peculiar listing a goalkeeper in this part of the preview, however, if their early-season encounter is anything to go by, as well as Blaugrana’s recent league form, Diego Lopez could well be in for a busy afternoon on Sunday. 

Barcelona v Valencia - Copa Del Rey

Providing he is not one rested by Valverde, Luis Suarez will no doubt prove tricky to deal with from Espanyol’s perspective. 

The Uruguay international has netted 13 times during his previous 10 outings across all competitions for Barcelona, and unless the ageing custodian produces one of the most impressive performances of his career, the former Liverpool talisman could well add to that incredible haul this weekend. 


Team News

Barcelona boss Valverde has already hinted that some stars may well be afforded a breather this weekend, with Messi one of note. 

The Argentine has featured eight times since the conclusion of the winter break 26 days ago, failing to record 90 minutes within those just once, and there have been signs of fatigue in recent showings. 

However, club record-signing Philippe Coutinho could only record minutes from the substitutes’ bench during his new side’s 1-0 Copa del Rey win over Valencia midweek, meaning it would be surprising not to see the Brazilian feature from the outset on Sunday. 

FBL-ESP-LIGA-BARCELONA-ALAVES

Meanwhile, Ousmane Dembele and Thomas Vermaelen are both still sidelined and will play no part in proceedings. 

For the hosts, left-winger Pablo Piatti remains unlikely to feature after suffering a muscular injury, meaning Olympique Lyonnais loanee Sergi Darder could be forced from his more natural central position to out wide again should boss Quique Sanchez Flores adopt his recent favoured defensive 4-4-2 formation. 


Prediction

Although Espanyol became the first side since Real Madrid to claim victory over Barcelona in any competition last month, it is hard to look past Sunday’s visitors in terms of who will come out on top. 

Even without the likes of Messi, Valverde’s outfit still possess severe quality in abundance throughout their squad, and they will simply have too much for Periquitos. 

Score Prediction: Espanyol 0-2 Barcelona


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