Power8 Stadium, Barcelona
Saturday 2nd February, 2016
One of the main reasons why football fans fear a political split between Spain and Catalonia is because the troubled region has only two clubs that have regularly been top-flight quality. However, there is no denying the obvious supremacy that FC Barcelona enjoy over their local rivals Espanyol, as we head into the first Catalan derby of 2016.
Team News & Tactical Brief
RCD Espanyol De Barcelona
However, manager Constantin GA?lcA? will still by trying to rally his players around, in order to get something out of this game against the Catalan giants in the first match of the calendar year.
The biggest concern for GA?lcA? is trying to pack the midfield with as many players as possible, and play on the counter attack. The Romanian has fielded the 4-4-2 on certain occasions this season, but he is unlikely to do that this time round. Instead going with the general 4-2-3-1 formation looks more likely, as they need to stamp out FC Barcelona’s authority in the midfield region.
GA?lcA? has some good news on this front, as Pape Diop is available for selection once again, after being suspended for the 2-0 defeat at the hands of Sevilla. However, there is also a bit of a worry in that section as both Victor SA?nchez and Jose Canas are still doubtful for the match with injuries.
In defence GA?lcA? is still expected to go with the centre back pairing of Alvaro Gonzalez and Enzo Roco, even though the latter was at fault for a howler against Sevilla in their last match.
Gerard Moreno, who is the main creative force for Espanyol, would have his work cut out for him, as he may have to perform more as a central midfielder while defending, and double-up as an attacking midfielder when Espanyol break on the counter. Both Marco Asencio and Hernan Perez have would be looking to feed off Moreno’s balls on the wings, while striker Felipe Caicedo will be looking to latch on to any lose balls to launch forward into the counter attacks.
Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Pau; Duarte, Gonzalez, Roco, Lopez; Diop, Sanchez; Asencio, Moreno, Perez; Caicedo.
FC Barcelona has been on rampant form this season, and would be looking to swipe aside their local rivals on the first match on 2016, with the Messi-Suarez-Neymar (MSN) trio being on fire at the moment.
Blaugrana manager Luis Enrique has a couple of injury issues to keep in mind, but they should not be that big of a worry for him, especially against a mid-table side like Espanyol.
However, with the transfer ban on both FC Barcelona now lifted, Enrique might now be able to field both Arda Turan and Alexis Vidal although it is not yet clear whether the duo are still available to play or not. The Barca manager has certainly hinted that the two are “almost fit” to play in the match, which means that they would probably start from the bench, even if they are eligible.
This will be a huge boost for an already impressive FC Barcelona side, as they would have more quality players to look forward to, from the bench.
Lionel Messi was feared to have a little hip issue after a clash with Antonio Adan, but tests revealed nothing severe as the Argentine star is all set to take the field once again. Enrique will have a full squad to choose from and the only change he is expected to make is in defence, with Jeremy Mathieu replacing Javier Mascherano as the centre back.
The strong trio of Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic are set to dominate the midfield, with the menacing MSN trio to feed in front of them.
Probable Starting XI (4-3-3): Bravo; Alba, Mathieu, Pique, Alves; Iniesta, Busquets, Rakitic, Neymar, Suarez, Messi.
- Espanyol have not beaten FC Barcelona in the last six years.
- The last four Catalan derbies at the Power8 stadium have seen maximum two goals each.
- Espanyol have won only once in their last five La Liga matches.
- FC Barcelona have scored 10 goals in their last three matches.
Player to watch out for
The former Liverpool FC and Ajax star has been on rampant form for FC Barcelona this season, with 15 goals already to his name in the La Liga. The Uruguayan striker forms one third of the formidable MSN trio and would have plenty of opportunities from this South American amigos to increase his tally.