Barcelona overcame a tough test to beat Espanyol 3-0 in La Liga on Saturday night
Heading into the game, many felt that this would be a stern test for the Blaugranes in what was sure to be a hotly contested Catalan derby against Espanyol and that is exactly what it turned out to be, until the hosts shot themselves in the foot.
Barcelona had to deal with a tough, cagey Espanyol side that defended impressively as a unit and were unable to create any real clear cut opportunities, apart from one half-chance for Sergi Roberto which the Spaniard headed wide.
However, some terrible individual errors from Espanyol were enough to gift Barcelona a victory on the night and manager Quique Sanchez will be hugely disappointed with the result, given how well Espanyol were performing.
The result means that Barcelona went back top of the table with just 3 more games to play although second placed Real Madrid – who beat Valencia earlier on in the night – have one game in hand. We take a look at the key talking points from the game.
Barcelona overcome a tough test
The Catalan derby is always a heated affair and Espanyol always give Barcelona a run for their money, even if the results don’t often go their way. Going into the game, many knew that Barcelona would be facing one of the toughest Catalan derbies in recent times given Espanyol’s form under Quique Sanchez.
Sanchez has turned this side into a well-drilled team that defends as a unit and works hard and they made it very difficult for Barcelona in the first half indeed. The visitors looked uncomfortable under pressure and it looked for all the world like we would be heading for a draw.
Luck aside, Barcelona needed a victory against their neighbors – especially after Real Madrid secured a late victory against Valencia – and the Blaugranes managed to get the three points in a fixture where many thought their title challenge would come unglued.
Losing La Liga title in a season where Barcelona won at the Bernabeu+Pizjuan+Calderon+SanMamés+Mestalla+Cornella would be hard to digest
— adil (@Barca19stats) April 29, 2017
Suarez gets much needed confidence boost
Luis Suarez was going through a scoring drought – especially by his standards – before the match against Espanyol and had only managed to pick up one assist in his last five appearances, coming in for some criticism from Barcelona fans for his form.
This has to be the worst form Luis Suarez has been in maybe ever
— Ryan Catanese (@rcatanese) April 23, 2017
The Uruguayan was criticised by several Barcelona fans during the match against Espanyol as well, as he looked bereft of confidence and often made mistakes. On several occasions, Suarez opted to pass the ball rather than shoot – something that is very uncharacteristic of the Uruguayan when he is presented with a good opportunity.
That is the mark of a striker who is low on confidence so his brace against Espanyol will do him a world of good. Suarez was relatively quiet throughout the game and not particularly involved but when the chances came, he took them.
Luis Enrique will be hoping that the brace will be enough for Suarez to get back to his best as Barcelona continue their push for the title over the next three fixtures and Barcelona fans will perhaps be a little more forgiving of the Uruguayan after his role in the victory.
Busquets puts on another masterclass
Sergio Busquets is a player that any manager in the world would dream to have, even if his performances often go under the radar due to the subtle, the not-so-glamorous nature of his role – especially in a Barcelona side that is always filled with flair.
Busquests’ positional awareness is impeccable and his choices when it comes to distributing the ball from midfield are almost always the perfect ones. He is calm and collected under pressure and very rarely loses the ball, even when surrounded by opponents.
Last night, Busquets was imperious – as he often has been when playing this season. The midfielder made 5 tackles, won 4 aerial duels, had 94 touches of the ball – the second highest on the pitch behind Neymar – and made 70 accurate passes according to WhoScored.
Busquets’s football is in his head. DM are rated for tackles and interceptions but he’s rated for wisdom. What a beautiful footballer he is.
— 502 (@Raphytic) April 29, 2017
Neymar continues to dazzle
Neymar may not have gotten on the score sheet or picked up an assist last night but the Brazilian was once again one of the main threats for a Barcelona side that was finding it hard to get an inch on Espanyol.
The Brazilian wizard always looked for the ball and often dropped deep to try and make something happen and was constantly dragging Espanyol defenders out of position and trying to create openings for his side.
The statistics are impressive as well. Neymar made 51 accurate passes, 3 key passes, had a whopping 108 touches – the most of any player on the pitch – and completed a simply astonishing 11 take ons against Espanyol last night.
Manuel Jurado has an absolute nightmare
Manuel Jurado will quickly want to forget about the match against Barcelona although it is likely to haunt him for a little more time. Jurado was the architect of Barcelona’s opening goal, gifting Luis Suarez with a goal after a bewildering back pass that was completely unnecessary and misplaced.
He also put in one of his worst performances of the night, failing to register a single tackle and making only 22 accurate passes. He was also dispossessed thrice and along with Aaron Martin – who also committed a crucial error that led to Barcelona’s third – was Espanyol’s worst player on the pitch. Definitely a night to forget.