Marc-Andre ter Stegen
A mere spectator in the first half as Espanyol rarely attacked, but was called into action after the break, recording three saves. Had plenty of work in the passing game though as he was constantly under pressure from Espanyol forwards, but did his job very well, making more passes than just about every player on the opposing team. But unlike in most Barcelona games he was forced to make numerous long passes.
Looked to have injured his knee early in the game, but recovered from the knock and delivered another solid performance. Was constantly active up and down the Barcelona right flank, but especially in attack he could’ve helped out more as he missed a header that could’ve put Barcelona in the lead. After the introduction of Mascherano he moved to midfield where he ended the match.
Umtiti continued to show why his transfer in the summer was the best piece of business in recent years. The Frenchman was an impenetrable wall making numerous important tackles and was a constant presence in the air game.
Looked shaky in the early going as he struggled at times to cope with the man that is Felipe Caicedo. But Pique recovered nicely and after Caicedo was pulled to the bench, he was granted more freedom on the pitch, however, at times he was quite careless with the ball, allowing some quick Espanyol breaks. Not Pique’s worst game, but more often than not he has been upstaged by the newcomer to the Barcelona defensive ranks.
With Barcelona going back, at least in recent games, to the four-man defense, Alba has seen his minutes increase mightily, but his performances haven’t necessarily justified the increase. It’s not that the speedster has done many things wrong, because he hasn’t, but he also hasn’t done many things right. Defensive he’s been solid, but in offense, apart from the pass in the El Clasico, he hasn’t been his usual self in attack.
Seemingly always under pressure when on the ball, Busquets came out mostly unscathed. He had some problems at times, but like he’s done throughout his career he was very calm under pressure. Defensively Busquets performed excellently, leading both teams in successful tackles while also putting his height to good use winning numerous aerial duels.
Struggled to find consistency and form for most of the season, but recently Rakitić has been able to find both, scoring for the second time in a week, this time with a calm low shot to the far post. Otherwise was solid if unspectacular as he spent much of the game focused on defense where he, as he has so often before, played excellently.
The difference a couple of goals can make… Chosen to replace the injured Andres Iniesta, Gomes shined, especially in the first half. He looked calm, alert and, most importantly, confident on the pitch. While his impact on the game waned as it progressed, he remained consistent on defense where he had arguably his best game in a Barcelona shirt.
Returning from a three game suspension, Neymar wasn’t at his very best. While the effort and energy was clearly evident, the decision making and execution was not. Tried to be a constant threat on the left side, but too often he was dispossessed or his passes missed the mark. Still, Neymar looked destined to end the game with a goal, but his curling right-footed shot was excellently tipped over.
Wasn’t having a very good game, drawing memories from Suarez’s recent poor showings, but an errant back pass was all Luisito needed to break the duck, scoring for the first time in six games. Added another easy one late in the game after another defensive miscue by the Espanyol defense.
Messi was played out of the game by the Espanyol defense for the most part of the game as there were seemingly always at least three defenders on the Argentine. But Messi showed in the second half that all he needs is one mistake to make the opponents pay, making a stunning run before laying the ball to Rakitić for the second goal of the game.
Barcelona’s newest goalscorer came on as a substitute with about 15 minutes left to play and slotted in at right-back but hardly saw any action.
The first half was far from ideal for Barcelona as they often looked unmotivated – against a side that is always extra motivated against Barcelona. But the game improved in the second, but had it not been for some costly Espanyol mistakes, Barcelona could’ve been made to sweat.
Wasn’t experimenting one bit against the city rivals, nor should he have as Espanyol always seem to cause problems. Saw the return of Neymar, but had to deal with the Iniesta injury, but wisely went with the confident Gomes.