La Liga returns with the cracking Barcelona derby on Saturday. Espanyol are set to host Barcelona in the much anticipated ‘Derbi barceloní’ and the match looks winnable for the Blaugranes. Barcelona come fresh from eliminating Cultural Leonesa in the Copa del Rey by an aggregate of 5-1 which propels them to the further stages of the competition.
Meanwhile, Espanyol have lost their last three league fixtures and if they lose this one, it will be their worst record since 2012. Speaking of league games, the Blaugranes are unbeaten in 14 games against Espanyol with 13 clean sheets to their name, thus the fixture is a huge test for the hosts. Here are the three things Barcelona should do to win the derby:
Take advantage of individual errors
Espanyol have faltered many times due to individual errors and this season hasn’t been any different. Their average passing accuracy percentage indicates that they are prone to many individual faults, a stray pass out of nowhere and their meltdown begins. Moreover, their style of play constitutes them passing in their own half. Barcelona too, have been prone to this, especially when defending but they make up for it by scoring relentlessly. Meanwhile Espanyol have scored just 17 compared to Barca’s 37 but have conceded less than their Catalan counterparts (16 compared to Barca’s 19). So if Barcelona make the most out of Espanyol’s individual mistakes and convert every chances, the game can be won.
Defend against attacks down the wings
With Sergi Roberto injured and set to miss this fixture, Nelson Semedo has stepped up and is performing with consistency. With Messi playing the centre forward due to Suarez’s knee injury, Semedo’s partnership with Dembele has been solid. Though his distribution has been questioned, the Portuguese has the pace and ability to take overlapping runs and combine well with Pique for defensive contribution. Espanyol like to attack down the wings and Barcelona do have a right back problem. Defending through the flanks is a must for the Blaugranes and if they fail to do so, Espanyol will surely take full advantage.
Restrain Espanyol’s counter-attacks
Espanyol under Rubi are a well-balanced team with quick transitions between 4-3-3 and 4-1-4-1 and speedy counter-attacks. They like to steal the ball from the opposition and thus play with more aggression and pressure. Which is why even though they are good at counter-attacks, they suffer defending them. With Sergio Busquets comfortably slotting in between the centre-backs, if the full-backs are strategically positioned to absorb pressure during the accustomed Barca play-building routines and attacking set pieces, where there are more chances to lose the ball, Espanyol’s counter attacks can be dissolved. Which brings the spotlight to Nelson Semedo who has to run in tandem with the ever-reliable Jordi Alba. Restraining their counter-attacks will make them commit mistakes and if Barcelona capitalise on that, nothing will stop them from getting three points.