RCD Espanyol (13th, 27pts) vs FC Barcelona (5th, 38pts)*
*Points and positions at the time of writing on Saturday
Competition/Round: 2021-22 La Liga, Matchday 24
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Ansu Fati, Dani Alves, Samuel Umtiti, Clément Lenglet, Sergi Roberto, Alejandro Balde (out), Memphis Depay, Eric García (doubt)
Espanyol Outs & Doubts: Óscar Gil (out), Fernando Calero (doubt)
Date/Time: Sunday, February 13, 2022, 9pm CET/WAT (Barcelona & Nigeria), 8pm GMT (UK), 3pm ET, 12pm PT (USA), 1.30am IST (India, Monday)
Venue: RCDE Stadium, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Referee: Alejandro José Hernández Hernández
VAR: José Luis González González
How to watch on TV: Not Available (USA, Canada), Premier Sports 1 (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), MTV (India), Movistar LaLiga (Spain), others
Following a brilliant victory over Atlético Madrid and a full week of training and preparation in beautiful Catalonia, Barcelona face a tough challenge in their next La Liga match as they travel across town to meet local rivals Espanyol at the RCDE Stadium on Sunday Night Fútbol.
Barça spent a whole week inside the Top 4 for the first time since September but are already out of it again thanks to a crazy win by Atlético on Saturday, so the Blaugrana need three points to make it two weeks in a row in a Champions League place. That is the only goal for the rest of the season, and even the high-profile Europa League Playoff against Napoli on Thursday is not as important as securing a high league position.
Xavi’s men looked amazing against the defending champions last week but now the challenge is to build upon that. It can’t be a one-off, a perfect storm due to the boost of new signings and an amazing Camp Nou crowd. That is now the standard of performances that must be maintained until the end of the season to accomplish the objective.
The month of February requires that standard because of the quality of the opponents and the importance of the games, and Espanyol will provide a very tough test. They are perhaps the least talented team Barça will face this month, but they have proven almost impossible to beat at home and will no doubt raise their game for their biggest rivals.
The Periquitos have lost some steam after a strong start to the season but remain a well-coached side and will make it a real battle for all 90 minutes. If Barça can play with the same intensity and attacking creativity from last week, however, they can absolutely win this and keep the momentum going.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Dest, Araujo, Piqué, Alba; Pedri, Busquets, F. De Jong; Adama, Ferran, Gavi
Espanyol (4-2-3-1): López; Vidal, Gómez, Cabrera, Pedrosa; Darder, Morlanes; Vilhena, Melendo, Puado; De Tomás
Derbies are never fun or easy, but I’m starting to seriously trust this Barça team: 3-1 to the good guys, and maybe even a first goal for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.