De Jong’s red card costs Barca victory
Frenkie de Jong has been quality for Barca since joining from Ajax but his red card against Espanyol cost his team all three points at the RCDE Stadium.
The Dutch star had already been booked for a foul on Matías Vargas and left the referee with no choice but to pull the yellow card out again when he tugged Jonathan Calleri.
It’s his first red card for Barcelona, the first of his career and capped a poor night for the midfielder. He wasn’t the only one either, Ivan Rakitic had a game to forget and only lasted 45 minutes before being replaced by Arturo Vidal.
De Jong’s red means he will be suspended for Barcelona’s next La Liga clash against Granada on 19 January and leaves Valverde short of options for that match.
Ernesto Valverde will have just Arturo Vidal, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic as senior midfielders available, although Sergi Roberto is also an option to come into midfield.
The Barcelona boss also has two Spanish Super Cup matches to play before that fixture and will be praying his midfield trio come through those games unscathed.
Suarez & Vidal Keep Delivering
Luis Suarez continues to confound his critics with another influential performance that saw him score and assist for Barcelona.
The Uruguayan levelled the game early in the second half after a ball in from the left by Jordi Alba and then crossed for Arturo Vidal to head Barcelona into the lead.
Opta highlighted just how effective Suarez has been recently.
10 - Luis Suárez has been involved in each one of the @FCBarcelona’s last nine goals in #LaLiga (four goals & six assists). The Uruguayan is the player to have scored & assisted both in a single LaLiga game more often (four as Karim Benzema). Key#EspanyolBarça #Derby https://t.co/pL0rDO9day— OptaJose (@OptaJose) January 4, 2020
The Uruguayan has six goals and nine assists in his last nine outings for Barca and was the club’s saviour against Espanyol on a quietish night for Lionel Messi.
Arturo Vidal also came up with the goods once again after arriving from the bench at half-time. The Chilean helped change the game and scored his sixth goal of the season to put Barca ahead.
Valverde said after the match Vidal helped give his team an “extra edge” in attack and he certainly did that, surely they can’t let him leave in January?
Barcelona’s away form may cost them the title
Barcelona put in yet another poor performance away from home on Saturday that wiped out their two-point lead over Real Madrid and brought fresh scrutiny on the team.
Ernesto Valverde seems incapable of correcting his side’s deficiencies on the road which may end up costing the team the title.
Bringing on Vidal at half-time helped turn the game but Barca really can’t keep giving teams a head start if they are to pick up silverware this season.
Barca have now won just four of 10 away games in La Liga this season, conceding 13 goals in those matches, hardly title-winning form.
The champions still have to go to teams such as Real Madrid, Valencia, Betis, Villarreal and Celta Vigo, and failure to beat La Liga’s bottom side will have done little to mprove the team’s confidence away from the Camp Nou.