Yesterday our Barca returned to action after the international break. However, an ultra-defensive Espanyol side managed to keep the score on 0-0 deep into the second half. But, a brace from Messi, and in the end Barca wins another derby, keeping the gap at the top of the table at 10.
It was a tough game for Barca, because it’s usually hard after international breaks. In addition, both Luis Suarez and Leo Messi were not at their best shape. Moreover, Espanyol came to the game with a 5-4-1 setup that tried to give Barca as little room as they could. Therefore, the first half was tough to watch: Barca tried to attack, but couldn’t reach the goal. And at the end of the first half the numbers showed 0 shots on goal.
In the second Half, Valverde made a quick change and let Malcom enter the game, replacing Arthur. With that change we saw Coutinho move to the midfield for the first time in a long time. Coutinho at the midfield looks like a different player, and he played good until eventually Vidal replaced him. For Barca, Messi “did his thing” and scored two goals, giving Barca the precious win.
The first goal of Messi was a “Panenka” freekick, something you don’t see every day. However, some media channels claimed this goal to be an own goal, eventually it was written on Leo. In addition, the second Messi goal was a classic Barca goal in a play that took 12 seconds. Messi started the play, and eventually scored the goal after a nice assist from Malcom.
Things to think about
Barca wins a tough match against a very defensive side, and it’s always hard to play against such a defensive formation. However, I think there are three things Valverde should take from this game:
- Keep Messi healthy. He’s the X factor and even when he’s not 100%, he’s gold.
- Play Malcom more. You have to have at least one pure winger, and Messi isn’t.
- Play Coutinho at midfield. He can do so much more from there. He’s not a winger.
At the end of the day Barca wins the game, and we’re getting closer to clinch the La Liga again. With 10 points more than Atletico, Barca will face Villareal in Wednesday, and Atletico themselves in Saturday. The next week will be vital: Whether Barca will be close to be champions, or maybe the league will open up.