This afternoon at 2pm local time, we are finally back in action. After more than 50 days away, Barça return to Camp Nou for the derby vs local rivals, Espanyol. Following on from what was an incredible World Cup in Qatar. Where Barça legend and football’s greatest, Leo Messi won the prestigious tournament. We arrive at our first game back with a fully fit squad. And, most surprisingly, with no suspensions either. It was announced early yesterday morning that Lewandowski’s suspension has been postponed, whilst the appeal is under investigation. It’s a huge boost to have him available for El Derbi. We’ll just be hoping that we can win our appeal and get his overall suspension reduced. It’s an absolutely vital game for us, at a key part of the season. And we’ll be looking to hopefully end 2022 on a high, with a convincing performance. Setting us up on the best possible note for 2023.
A quick look at our opponents:
When you look at our rivals for today’s game, Espanyol is one of the biggest occasions. They’re our neighbours and have grown a bad reputation for themselves over the years. Every encounter is a fiery one, especially between the two fanbases. But what is different this time round, is the fact that from this year onwards, Barcelona have officially banned Espanyol fans from the stadium. Including the display of any blue and white shirts. So theoretically, there isn’t expected to be any away fans at the game later today. We have to use that to our advantage.
Espanyol currently find themselves in 17th place, without a win in their last 5 league games. They lost their most recent La Liga game 1-0 at home to Villarreal. But have managed to pick up a point away at Atletico Madrid. They’re a team in desperate need of points, which means we simply cannot underestimate them. This game is also a very special one for our coach, Xavi. As he made his coaching debut for us in our last home game against them. Which ended in a very narrow 1-0 win for us. Thanks to a penalty from Memphis. It’s going to be a tricky game, but we have to ensure we come away with a positive result. Ending the year on a good note is vital for the start of 2023. We’ll be hoping to do just that later on today.
🎙Xavi in the press conference on derby.— Barça Buzz (@Barca_Buzz) December 30, 2022
🗣: "It's a derby, we are motivated after a month .We are leaders in the League and we want to compete. Delighted to be able to count on Lewandowski and Araujo . pic.twitter.com/DTGssEAiYg
For the first time this season, Xavi has a fully fit squad at his disposal. And that is music to the ears. Ronald Araujo got given the medical green light yesterday morning. And although he isn’t expected to start, he will undoubtedly feature for a few minutes today. As will Lewandowski, who is miraculously available for the game too. It’ll be interesting to see how Xavi lines up. One thing I do hope, is that we see an indication of what’s to come for the next year. Dropping Busquets and playing Frankie as the lone pivot from the start would be brilliant. We are really struggling financially, so there wont be much business in the winter window. We have to start dropping Busi more often. In attack, I think and hope, that Ansu will get the nod to start on the left. With Lewandowski down the middle. And most probably Raphinha on the right.
My prediction for Barça lineup VS Espanyol:
Roberto- Kounde- Christensen- Balde
Pedri- Frankie- Gavi
Raphinha- Lewandowski- Ansu