Barcelona return to La Liga after the international break this weekend.
Ernesto Valverde’s men have had mixed results on the international front but a win against local rivals Espanyol will jump-start their lackadaisical start.
Barcelona sneaked past Betis and Alaves with uninspiring victories that brought back memories from the “Messi-dependencia” era at the club.
To put the season back on track and finally focus on what’s important, here are three things that Ernie needs to do against Espanyol.
1. Create a working midfield
Ivan Rakitic is a doubt due to a thigh muscle strain which is expected to rule him out of the tie while both Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets played the full 90 minutes against Liechtenstein for Spain. Although the latter is still capable of playing back to back matches, Iniesta certainly isn’t. At 33 years of age, it is important for the manager to protect his veteran captain. It is a big match and Iniesta’s presence will be a huge boost in midfield considering the absence of Rakitic. However, it might be in Barcelona’s best interests to explore the possibility of resting him.
With neither of the starting central midfielders available, Valverde will be forced to find suitable replacements which should benefit the Blaugrana in the future. It will also give the likes of Sergi Roberto, Denis Suarez, André Gomes and Paulinho a shot to carve out a niche for themselves.
2. Start Nelson Semedo
I have said it before, and I’ll say it again—the sooner Semedo fits in, the better for us. Semedo has easily been the best option at right-back and yet Valverde has continued to rely on Aleix Vidal and Sergi Roberto in the role. While it is possible that Ernie is trying to figure out who’s going to play backup, a derby is no time for experimentation—you choose the option that will give you the best result.
Nelson Semedo brings in all the right qualities and his cut-ins complement the flank operators in Ernie’s system. Only time will tell if Valverde makes the right call. Personally? I think Semedo starts.
3. Win big
Sounds easy, right? No.
Barcelona just scraped past Betis and Alaves thanks to Lionel Messi and only a big win will curb the growing pessimism at the club. The VONC and lack of renewals from major stars are symptoms of an institutional crisis at Barcelona and only a huge scoreline will divert the attention back to football.
The fans have been let down due to the shortage of imports during the transfer window and a big derby-win should elevate spirits. The impending debut of Ousmane Dembélé and a massive victory will certainly give Culés something worth talking about.
Should Iniesta start against Espanyol?
This poll is closed
Yes, he’s still got it
No, he’s ageing and needs rest
Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below!