Barcelona hosted city rivals Espanyol today in what was a vital game for both teams. Barcelona needs the win to stay in the title race and Espanyol need to win to avoid relegation. Setien sent out the following starting XI: Ter Stegen, Alba, Lenglet, Pique, Semedo, Busquets, Rakitic, Roberto, Greizmann, Suarez and Messi.
There is no understatement when I say this was arguably the most boring match of football throughout the restart of the league. Nothing happened in the first half, as Barcelona dominated possession. But Barça had zero shots on target. Espanyol had only one shot on target.
Barcelona’s backline was a little shaky at times, which lead to a scare as Espanyol managed to hit the post. Other than that, Espanyol locked down on defense and was not giving Barcelona any chance of getting near the goal.
The second half had sparks to begin with. Fati was brought on after the break and saw red after playing only five minutes. The offense was a straight red card which means Fati’s first La Liga may be over with three matches left. Minutes later, an identical challenge on Pique produced another red card. With both teams down to 10 men, Barcelona capitalized with the extra space on the pitch.
After some lovely combinations, Alba picked out Greizmann in the box and the Frenchman back heeled it to Messi who saw his shot blocked but it lands in front of Suarez who was able to put it past Diego Lopez to make it 1-0 in favor of Barcelona. With that goal, Suarez moves into sole possession of being the third highest goal scorer in Barcelona history. The match would end in a 1-0 victory for Barcelona and results in Espanyol relegating to the Segunda.
Takeaways from the match
- The lineup with having Messi play as a false nine worked well against Villarreal but Setien did not apply the same tactics during this game. I believe it would have worked extremely well as Espanyol was leaving a gap between their backline and midfield, where Messi could have taken advantage.
- Sergi Roberto and Rakitic cannot play in the midfield together. The team loses its dynamics and looks much flatter compared to having only one of the players play alongside Busquets and another midfielder.