Marc-Andre ter Stegen kept Barcelona safe as they scraped through with a 1-0 win when they hosted RCD Espanyol at the Camp Nou.

Barcelona were hoping to continue their winning ways as they got ready to host city rivals RCD Espanyol at their fortress – the Camp Nou. The Catalan derby promised to bring a lot to the table as Barcelona were motivated to keep the pressure on Real Madrid as Espanyol wanted to continue to fight another day.

Quique Setien continued to assemble his team in a 4-3-1-2, but it was foreseen by Francisco Rufete who set up Espanyol with a 5-3-2, which would help block out attacks through the centre of the pitch. After a rather horrid first half where they were lucky to concede any, Barcelona shifted to a stretched 4-2-3-1 which lasted no more than five minutes after substitute Ansu Fati was sent off in the 50th minute.

Thankfully for Barcelona, Espanyol had one of their own – Pol Lozano – red-carded minutes later with a similar foul. This helped Barcelona find more spaces in the midfield and eventually got the sole goal of the game after Luis Suarez found the net after a rebound off Diego Lopez.

The Blaugrana were able to take control of the game from there and see the game out successfully. This result officially pushed Espanyol down to the Segunda Division putting an end to the Catalan derby – maybe temporarily. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Setien’s men.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 9/10

Barcelona’s shot-stopper was always going to face a challenging game against their arch-rivals, but he delivered as always. Marc-Andre ter Stegen was a significant part of the first half and completed more touches and passes than Luis Suarez. He made just three saved through the 90 minutes, but those saves turned out to be possibly the most clutch moments of the game as Barcelona got their first clean sheet in three games.

Nelson Semedo: 6/10

Raul de Tomas came head-to-head against Nelson Semedo yesterday at several moments and one of the first players this season to get the better of the Portuguese. Fatigue probably got the better of Semedo who was always misplacing passes, not tracking back quickly enough or attempting to take on the opposition fullbacks. One of his worst performances in a Barcelona shirt.

Gerard Pique: 9/10

Gerard Pique arrived at the Camp Nou zipping on his bicycle and casually delivered a masterclass; it is one of his favourite fixtures after all. He made seven clearances, one interception and made one crucial block putting his body in front of a shot from Marc Roca that was always going on target.

Rock solid. (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

Rock-solid. (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

The world cup winner also completed 93.2% of his passes, 100% (5/5) of his long passes and was not dribbled past a single time by Espanyol. He won 10 of his 13 aerial duels and won more fouls than he gave away—one of the best in his position.

Clement Lenglet: 7.5/10

Lenglet has shown no signs of fatigue or helplessness throughout the season and would not even if he has to start all games. This was evident yesterday after he was caught out of position several times venturing forward but tracked back incredibly well. He took 101 touches and made 87 accurate passes but was not able to win a single aerial duel out of the three he contested.

Jordi Alba: 7/10

Alba was the most involved player on the pitch yesterday for Barca, taking 136 touches and accurately making 97 passes but it was an absolute disaster for all four fullbacks that took to the pitch. The Spaniard had a difficult time getting crosses and cutbacks right because of Espanyol’s deep block and ended up losing possession 21 times – the most on the pitch and a bizarre number for a left-back. Alba has been one of Barcelona’s best player since the restart but yesterday was just not his day.

Ivan Rakitic: 7/10

Ivan Rakitic replaced Arturo Vidal on the right-of-centre of midfield and had a decent outing vs Espanyol after he was subbed out with one minute remaining. He created one chance in the game, making 102 accurate passes and completing 100% (4/4) of his long passes. He was also connected well with the forwards after attempting to venture up the pitch, which seems like a sign of good things to come.

Sergio Busquets: 7/10

Recently, Busquets has begun games as the deepest midfielder on the pitch but has ventured forward a lot of times in an attempt to take part of the attack, however, against Espanyol, Busquets had to cover a lot for Lenglet who was caught out of position several times. The Spaniard made three crunch tackles that stopped attacks, but other than that, he was overpowered and bullied a lot of times in the centre of the park.

Sergi Roberto: 8/10

Impressive. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Impressive. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Roberto started the game as the left-hand side of the trio and was the standout midfielder of the game. He took 117 touches, completing 96% passes out of which three were vital passes. He shifted to the right-back position in the second half where he was crucial to see out the game, proof of which came later in the game when he was faced one-on-one against R.D.T. but got the better of him through a brilliant tackle.

He also completed 5/5 of his crosses, out of which one was hit home by Antoine Griezmann through a powerful header that crept just over the bar. Roberto ended the game with 100% dribbles but failed to do anything with them constantly resorting to a backpass.

Lionel Messi: 7/10

Barcelona’s captain is the top scorer in the Catalan derby with 25 goals, but failed to come up with the goods yesterday and was blocked out continuously by a very disciplined defence. Messi completed 8 of 13 dribbles and seemed to connect very well with Antoine Griezmann who has received a massive lift since he started to play in the second-striker position.

The Argentine did, however, set up Suarez for the winner after Diego Lopez saved his shot. Overall, a rather average performance by the best in the world.

Antoine Griezmann: 7.5/10

Finally settling in. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Finally settling in. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Griezmann was inculcated back into the starting lineup after Setien found a way to include all three of their star forwards in the lineup. After an inch-perfect display against an open Villarreal, it was always going to be tough for the Frenchman to play against a deep block.

He was the primary party responsible for Barcelona’s goal yesterday after laying off the ball brilliantly to Messi through a backheel that deceived the opposition. He also created two goalscoring chances through passes and two through winning freekicks.

Luis Suarez: 7/10

Suarez was the least involved player for Barcelona yesterday, making a tremendously few 15 passes and touching the ball just 28 times. He had the chance to score a goal in the first half but failed to pull the trigger in time through his weak foot. A 5/10 game was elevated after he tucked in the only goal of the game, coming up clutch yet again.

SUBSTITUTES:

Ansu Fati: 0.5/10

Fati was brought on in the second half to inject some speed and space into the game but was sent off five minutes since coming on after a careless tackle on David Lopez.

Arturo Vidal: 6.5/10

Vidal was brought on in the 70th minute to see the game out and defend their lead and did that successfully. He completed 95% of his passes, most of which were easy short passes back to Busquets, but a part of which helped Barca maintain the 1-0 scoreline.

Martin Braithwaite: N/A

The Danish striker was subbed on to give Suarez a few minutes of rest and see the game out which he did successfully.

Ronald Araujo: N/A

Subbed on with just three minutes on the clock to maintain the scoreline.

 

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