25th April, 2015; 15-00 GMT
Estadi Cornell -El Prat, Barcelona
Espanyol play hosts to Barcelona in the 33rd round of La Liga, and for the Blaugrana, this is a game that they cannot afford to lose.
Espanyol are bang in the middle of the La Liga table and they have nothing to play for in the rest of the league campaign. They are too far away to harbor any hopes of getting into Europe next season, unless the teams suddenly decide to have a collective failure. And the teams at the other end of the table also pose no problem to them, and so the players can be forgiven to have a casual approach to this game. It will be a big task for the manager to make them want to try and win against a high flying Barca team.
For Barcelona, ita s a period of the campaign where they cannot afford to drop any points at all. With Real Madrid only 2 points behind them, and playing Celta Vigo over the weekend, a win is a must if they are to not cede control of the title to their rivals. Barca have a chance to complete only their second treble in history and Luis Enrique will fire up the players to ensure that there is no drop in application on the field.
Team News and Tactics
Manager Sergio Gonzalez has a real task on his hand to keep his team motivated enough to take on the juggernaut of Barcelona. On any other day, it would have been difficult enough to try and beat the team that boasts the most fearsome attacking front, and when you have nothing to play it for, it is all the more difficult to ask your players to try and work hard to stop them. Apart from the fact that they would have a part to play in how the La Liga title battle shapes up, there is no incentive for Espanyol in this game.
The manager is likely to have his team in a 4-4-2 formation, with Caicedo and Garcio leading the line. Midfielder Victor Sanchez, a former Barca player, is out due to suspension and they also miss out on Felipe Mattioni, whoa s on the injury list. However, they do have Salva Sevilla and Juan Fuentes back, in case they are needed.
Expected Line up: Casilla; Duarte, Moreno, Gonzalez, Arbilla; Alvarez, Lopez, Canas, Vazquez; Caicedo, Garcia.
For Luis Enrique, the last few weeks of the season will turn out to be make or break for him and his future as a Barcelona coach. All the reported problems he supposedly had with Messi at the start of the year seem to behind both player and manager, with the team now having every chance to complete another treble. In the league campaign, there are only 2 games out of the remaining 6 where there is a likelihood that they can drop points, and the game against Espanyol is one of them, the other being Atletico Madrid on the penultimate day of the season. If they can see out this game and come away with 3 points, they would be nailed on to be crowned league champions again.
Thomas Vermaelen is the only player that is a doubt for this game, and the manager will put out his strongest side in a 4-3-3 formation. It is likely that Jeremy Mathieu and Gerard Pique will reunite in the centre of defence for this game, with Marc Batra likely to be used against weaker opposition for now. Whether Xavi or Alcantara will play Busquets and Iniesta would be the biggest question, and Enrique might go with the experience of the former.
Expected Line up: Bravo; Alba, Mathieu, Pique, Alves; Iniesta, Busquets, Xavi; Neymar, Suarez, Messi
Even though Espanyol have had great home form that has formed the basis of their 10th place in the table, having seen out a goalless draw over Atletico and winning 1-0 over Bilbao, the quality of Barcelona will show through, and the league leaders will take all 3 points.
Predicted Score: Espanyol 0-2 Barcelona