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Barcelona vs Espanyol, La Liga: Team News, Match Preview

The Xavi Era begins at Camp Nou with what promises to be a tough Barcelona Derby

FBL-ESP-LIGA-BARCELONA-TRAINING Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images

FC Barcelona (9th, 17pts) vs RCD Espanyol (11th, 17pts)*


*Points and positions at the time of writing on Friday

Competition/Round: 2021-22 La Liga, Matchday 14

Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Ansu Fati, Pedri, Sergio Agüero, Ousmane Dembélé, Martin Braithwaite (out), Sergiño Dest, Nico González (doubt), Dani Alves (unavailable)

Espanyol Outs & Doubts: Keidi Bare, Óscar Gil (doubt)

Date/Time: Saturday, November 20, 2021, 9pm CET/WAT (Barcelona & Nigeria), 8pm GMT (UK), 3pm ET, 12pm PT (USA), 1.30am IST (India, Sunday)

Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

Referee: Carlos Del Cerro Grande

VAR: Ignacio Iglesias Villanueva

How to watch on TV: Not Available (USA, (Canada), LaLigaTV (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), MTV (India), Movistar LaLiga (Spain), others

How to watch online: ESPN+ (USA), LaLigaTV (UK), others


Following the longest international break in the history of the multiverse, Barcelona football is finally back for what is the most anticipated match in recent times as Xavi Hernández makes his managerial debut in the Catalonia Derby against city rivals Espanyol at the Greatest Stadium on Earth.

Ever since Xavi was announced as the new head coach two weeks ago, Barça fans have felt hope for the first time in a long time. The return of a legend who was one of the most important figures in the club’s most successful era has given everyone associated with Barça a sense of rejuvenation and a positive look into the future.

There is no doubt that Xavi is a long-term project. The financial state of the club dictates that, and it’s Xavi’s job to coach the plethora of young talent in the squad into a cohesive unit that can develop into a great team in the near future, hopefully at the same time as Barça can make big investments again to sign a few key world-class players to complement the young core.

But the short-term is important too, and Xavi’s main objective is to finish in the top four to qualify for next season’s Champions League. Barça are currently ninth in the table and need to make up for lost time under Ronald Koeman, and three points on Saturday are crucial. But it won’t be easy against an Espanyol team that has been very solid since returning to La Liga and always treats these Derby matches like World Cup Finals, and the current state of the Barça squad doesn’t help either.

Xavi will be missing basically his entire attack for this one, with only Memphis Depay and Luuk De Jong available up front. Barça B youngsters like Ilias Akhomach, Ez Abde and Ferran Jutglà could find themselves not only in the squad but in the starting lineup, and it is almost impossible to even predict the first starting XI of the Xavi Era.

Regardless of the lineup, all we want to see are positive signs: a team that plays on the front foot, competes non-stop for all 90 minutes and shows passion and desire to play in a Blaugrana shirt. Their new coach knows what all of that means, and the hope is that he can communicate that message well and the team responds in a positive way.

Can’t wait for this one. Let’s dance.


POSSIBLE LINEUPS

Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Roberto, Piqué, García, Alba; Gavi, Busquets, De Jong; Demir, Memphis, Coutinho

Espanyol (4-2-3-1): López; Vidal, Gómez, Cabrera, Pedrosa; Morlanes, Herrera; Embarba, Darder, Puado; De Tomás


PREDICTION

I have absolutely no idea what to expect from the team, but I know Espanyol will make it really tough: I’ll go with a 2-1 win to be safe, but wouldn’t be surprised with a draw either.