RCD Espanyol (19th, 31pts) vs FC Barcelona (1st, 82pts)
Competition/Round: 2022-23 La Liga, Matchday 34
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: None
Espanyol Outs & Doubts: José Gragera (doubt)
Date/Time: Sunday, May 14, 2023, 9pm CET (Barcelona), 8pm BST/WAT (UK), 3pm ET, 12pm PT (USA), 12.30am IST (India, Monday)
Venue: RCDE Stadium, Cornellà de Lobregat, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Referee: Ricardo De Burgos Bengoechea
VAR: José Luis González González
How to watch on TV: ESPN (USA), ITV 4 (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), Sports18 (India), Movistar La Liga (Spain), Not Available (Canada), others
How to watch online: ESPN+ (USA), LaLigaTV, ITVX (UK), Movistar+ (Spain), others
Following a dramatic win over Osasuna and a 12-day break to rest, recover and train, Barcelona return to action for the biggest game of their season as they make the short trip to Cornellà for a massive Catalan Derby against crosstown rivals Espanyol at the RCDE Stadium on Sunday Night Fútbol.
Real Madrid’s win over Getafe on Saturday erased all possibilities of Barça winning the La Liga title before even playing on Sunday, so the task now is pretty simple: if Barça win, they clinch the championship with four games to spare and get to prepare the official celebration next week after their home game against Real Sociedad.
The Blaugrana are 90 mintues away from glory, needing just three more points to officially stamp their authority after a season of sheer dominance over the league thanks to their incredible defense. The attack left a lot to be desired at times, but there is zero doubt that Barça have earned the chance to win La Liga this season.
But clinching the title in this specific game is a truly brutal challenge. Not only is it a derby, it’s against an Espanyol team in desperate need of points in their fight against relegation. They are still alive but running out of time fast, and a defeat in this one would make their survival mission almost impossible.
A victory over the leaders, on the other hand, would be a very unexpected result and a massive boost of confidence for the final four games, but that might not even be the biggest source of motivation for Espanyol: they do not, under any circumstance, want to allow Barça to win and celebrate the title at Cornellà. It would be an embarrassment for the club and its fans, and they will go to battle to ensure Barça have to wait one more week to mathematically clinch the championship.
So for anyone expecting an easy night for Barça going into this simply because of the table, stop it right now. Form always goes out the window in a Derby anyway, but the unique circumstances around this Derby for both teams makes it even more dramatic and unpredictable.
One thing, however, is easy to predict: Espanyol will do everything in their power to stop the visitors from playing beautiful, free-flowing offense. They will kick the living hell out of every Barça player on the pitch and slow the game down as much as possible. If the referee allows the home team to be dirty, they will accept the invitation without hesitating. It’s their nature, and it’s their only chance of getting anything from this game.
Barça must stay calm, poised and focused from the start and know how to strike the balance between matching Espanyol’s physicality and intensity without going away from what they do best, which is dominate the ball and patiently move it until they find spaces to attack and score goals.
I am fully prepared for a war, without any expectation of pretty football and loads of goals. And to be honest, there are very few games in which I genuinely do not care about how well Barça play. This is one of them. I just want them to beat Espanyol, help relegate them and win the title in their stadium. It would be satisfying.
Forget dancing. Just fucking win.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Christensen, Balde; Pedri, Busquets, De Jong; Dembélé, Lewandowski, Gavi
Espanyol (5-3-2): Pacheco; Gil, Montes, Gómez, Cabrera, Oliván; Ribaudo, Darder, Denis; Braithwaite, Joselu
I really wish this would be an easy, dominant Barça win with five beautiful goals, but the truth is Espanyol are desperate for a multitude of reasons and will be defensive, physical and dirty all night. There won’t be any pretty football and Barça will need the defense to dominate again and get enough help in the form of one or two moments of attacking brilliance to clinch the the title: 2-0 to the good guys, and the championship will be ours.