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Barcelona vs Espanyol: team news, possible XIs, score prediction and match facts in La Liga round 35 preview

Everything you need to know in the preview to Wednesday’s derby match between Barcelona and Espanyol

Hariharan Balaji

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Header Image by Imago

Barcelona beat Villarreal on Sunday by four goals to one in one of their best performances of the season. The victory was very much essential for the progression of the remainder of the campaign. Now, Barça prepare to host their local rivals in a do-or-die game for the visitors. Here’s the preview of the match between Barcelona and Espanyol.


Date and kick-off time: Wednesday 8 July 2020, 22:00 CET

Stadium: Camp Nou

Competition: La Liga, matchday 35

Referee: José Luis Munuera Montero


Overview

Barcelona still trail Real Madrid by four points in the race for the La Liga title. The win against Villarreal by 1–4 on Sunday not only kept the gap at four, but it also brought the Catalans out of the winless run. It was vital in every sense for Barça as the spirits amongst the camp are high again. The fans’ trust in the manager has seemingly increased after an all-time low during the previous two games. But Real Madrid still are winning every game, scoring clutch goals and making it hard for the culés to make a comeback. 

Now, Barcelona play hosts to city neighbours and bitter rivals, Espanyol. The situations of the two clubs are as different as it could be as the visitors are on the cusp of relegation from the league sitting dead-last. Considering the problems the neighbours are having, Barça’s troubles seem light. However, it is a must-win match for both the club’s as both are on their path to different destinations.

Frenkie de Jong Arturo Vidal Luis Suárez Espanyol Barcelona match preview

The reverse La Liga fixture between Espanyol and Barcelona ended in 2–2 at the RCDE Stadium | Photo by Alex Caparrós via Getty Images

With all the talk of form and table positions, the fans must not forget about the impact of a derby. These are the games where players turn up despite the difficulties as their pride is in question. The reverse fixture saw Espanyol draw the game coming from behind despite starting the game as clear underdogs. Will Barça hit that final nail in the coffin, or will Espanyol live to die another day. Either way, the derby promises to be a spicy contest. 

What to expect from Barcelona?

Barcelona needed a game where they dominated every aspect of the game and had controlled every minute of it. The game vs Villarreal was the closest they got to that, and it has respawned all hope in the team. While it was not a perfect game, Barça had so many positives to take away from it. A new system, an integrated and firing Antoine Griezmann, and fewer problems to worry about now. Nevertheless, everything is not solved suddenly with one game, one win and one tactical tweak.  

“Of course we can still win La Liga. Mathematics says it. We have to keep hope until the final day”

Quique Setién
Barcelona coach ahead of hosting Espanyol

While the midfield diamond worked against Villarreal, an opposition which deploys a high line, it still has to be tested against low blocks. The blaugranas have struggled against teams which park the bus, and this 4–3–1–2 formation seems to compensate for one of the problems: width. It requires a ton of work from the full-backs in both attack and defence. Jordi Alba has struck his cord with this system, but Nélson Semedo must work on his attacking efficiency for this to work entirely.

The system is far from perfect, but it is the way to go if Quique Setién plans to play the attacking trio of MSG – Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Antoine Griezmann – all at once. There are issues like defending counter-attacks when the majority of players are stuck high up the field. But, with little tactical adjustments and intelligent positioning, they can be solved as Barça play more games with this new system. 

Setién might go with the same eleven as last game as he does not like to disturb things when it is working out. Frenkie de Jong and Samuel Umtiti remain on the sidelines with Junior Firpo who got injured just before the Villarreal game. 

What to expect from Espanyol?

Espanyol’s fortunes have changed drastically over the last season. From finishing in European spots, they have dropped to the bottom of the table in just a season. They are just a loss or a draw away from mathematically getting relegated even before the campaign ends. For a team which stood tall beside Barcelona in all derbies across years, the fall depicts their loss of direction. And to possibly get relegated in a derby, against bitter rivals, adds salt to the wound.

They have changed multiple managers, went under different systems, but never seem to get consistent with their results. Espanyol are winless in their last six games, after getting off to a winning start after the break versus Deportivo Alavés. Notwithstanding, a point to note is that their defeats have not been straight up humiliations as they have lost only by a goal or two, baring a few occasions. Even against the league leaders, they put up a fight, only for a moment of magic to make all the hard work go away.  

Europa League Espanyol Barcelona match preview

From Europa League to the Second Division | Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP via Getty Images

With everything on the line, Espanyol will turn up against Barcelona like they usually do. They will defend with every man behind the ball and cause problems to the Barça attack. With even a draw not enough for them, they will look to strike on the counter when they get the ball. Their forward Raúl de Tomás, on his day, is capable of carrying the team’s attack on his own. Their fans and the new manager, Francisco Joaquín Pérez Rufete, will surely hope it is their day. Jonathan Calleri is out of the game due to a suspension for the visitors.


Form

FC Barcelona

Last 5 games: WDDWD

Villarreal 1–4 Barcelona | La Liga
Barcelona 2–2 Atlético de Madrid | La Liga
Celta de Vigo 2–2 Barcelona | La Liga
Barcelona 1–0 Athletic Club de Bilbao | La Liga
Sevilla 0–0 Barcelona | La Liga

Position in La Liga

2nd 
73 points in 34 games
22 wins, 7 draws and 5 losses
78 Goals Scored, 36 Goals Conceded
+42 Goal Difference

RCD Espanyol

Last 5 games: LLLLL

Espanyol 0–1 Leganés | La Liga
Real Sociedad 2–1 Espanyol | La Liga
Espanyol 0–1 Real Madrid | La Liga
Real Betis 1–0 Espanyol | La Liga
Espanyol 1–3 Levante | La Liga

Position in La Liga

20th
24 points in 34 games
5 wins, 9 draws and 20 losses
27 Goals Scored, 54 Goals Conceded
–27 Goal Difference

“We need to finish like this club, team and fans deserve”

Francisco Joaquín Pérez Rufete
Espanyol coach ahead of facing Barcelona

Head-to-head record

Last 5 meetings

Espanyol 2–2 Barcelona | La Liga, 19/20
Barcelona 2–0 Espanyol | La Liga, 18/19
Espanyol 0–4 Barcelona | La Liga, 18/19
Espanyol 1–1 Barcelona | La Liga, 17/18
Barcelona 2–0 Espanyol | Copa del Rey 17/18


Match facts

• Espanyol have lost their last five matches in La Liga

• Barcelona are undefeated in 12 of their last 13 home duels with Espanyol in all competitions

• Espanyol have lost with a one-goal margin in their last four La Liga games

• Barça could relegate their rivals with a win


Team news and possible line-ups

FC Barcelona

Absences

Injured: Ousmane Dembélé (hamstring), Frenkie de Jong (calf), Samuel Umtiti (knee), Junior Firpo (right hip)
Suspended: None

Possible line-up

4–3–3
Ter Stegen
Semedo · Piqué · Lenglet · Jordi Alba
Rakitić · Busquets · Sergi Roberto
Messi · Suárez · Griezmann
Coach: Quique Setién

“We have to keep defending with responsibility this badge because it represents a lot of people, for its history, and because we will play a derby. We have to maintain out pride”

Francisco Joaquín Pérez Rufete

RCD Espanyol

Absences

Injured: None
Suspended: Jonathan Calleri

Possible line-up

4–4–1–1
Diego López
Javi López · Espinosa · Cabrera · Dídac Vilá
Melendo · David López · Marc Roca · Embarba
Darder
Raúl de Tomás
Coach: Francisco Joaquín Pérez Rufete


Predictions

Usually, the Derbi barcelonés will be a spicy contest, with Espanyol giving their all against their mighty neighbours. That said, their current situation barely makes a fan think they have a chance against Barcelona. But derbies do not disappoint, and predicting a derby with ignorance will only backfire.

If Espanyol turn up with their best low block, it will be an ideal test for Barcelona to know their capabilities. The Camp Nou’s size will, however, come to the host’s advantage if they find ways to stretch the opposition defence.

The writer’s prediction for the contest: 3–1 win for the Catalans. 


See more

Comparing the debut seasons of Neymar and Griezmann at Barça

• Has Quique Setién finally cracked the MSG code?

• Antoine Griezmann is smiling again in Barcelona

• Is the winner in the Arthur – Pjanić deal clear according to stats?

I got into watching football for the emotions of it. A goal followed by a crazy celebration from the player gave me goosebumps. But, watching the beautiful game over the years, I realised it was much more than just goals. The passing, the movements, the positioning and the effort involved behind the scenes opened my eyes to what football was. I keep trying to learn more about this incredible game and pass on what I learnt with a tinge of passion attached to it.

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Match Previews

Barcelona vs Ferencváros: Match Preview

Hariharan Balaji

Published

on

Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP via Getty Images

Just three days after the gruelling game away at Getafe, Barça are back in action again. Champions League starts once again, as the Catalans prepare for their first home game of the campaign. Here’s the preview of the match between Barcelona and Ferencváros. 


Date and kick-off time: Tuesday 20 October 2020, 21:00 CET

Stadium: Camp Nou

Competition: UEFA Champions League, Group Stage, Matchday 1

Referee: Sandro Schärer


Overview

The Champions League is back. The grandest of stages of club football is returning once again, barely two months after last season’s final. The group stages of the UEFA Champions League start this week with Barcelona in the group G. The first matchday sees Barça host Ferencváros in the Camp Nou, with Juventus and Dynamo Kyiv to follow in the coming weeks. 

The competition has not been kind to Barcelona lately with disappointments reigning over happiness in the last four seasons. But, with a new coach, new players, and a new season, anything can change. The players can approach the new campaign with a fresh mindset without the pressure of being overwhelming favourites

“We’re not the best favourites to win the Champions League, but we can go far.”

Ronald Koeman (pre-match press conference)

The visitors are playing their first official game against Barcelona in their history. The Hungarians are back in the Champions League after a few stints in the Europa League. They have reached here after playing the qualifications and the playoffs and have accustomed to the competition. Nonetheless, they are the underdogs of Group G, and a positive result on the first matchday would send a statement to the other teams. 

The hosts are understandably the favourites in the matchup, and the fans would expect a statement victory here to win them over. The hosts come from a defeat on the weekend, while the visitors remain unbeaten in their league. The Champions League can spring surprises out of nowhere, and the weekend of surprises could extend for the sake of the visitors. 

What to expect from Barcelona?

Barça have played four official games this season coming into this game. While the first two displayed the strengths of the team, the latter two revealed the weaknesses of the new system and the players. Ronald Koeman has stuck with his 4-2-3-1 for all the games, and a lack of plan B is appalling. In the last two games, where the team struggled to break down blocks or navigate press, Koeman has just thrown in attacking players as subs

While the attacking quality and technical proficiency are omnipresent, the lack of understanding between the players is concerning. However, the season is just getting started, and it would get better over the course of the season. The squad is arguably better and younger than previous seasons despite a few deficiencies in certain areas. 

The squad list will mostly remain the same as the last game with none of the injured players expected to return. With Real Madrid game on the weekend, a little rotation is likely from Ronald Koeman. Most of the players have travelled and played a lot during the international break, and this game could be a chance to rest them. Irrespective of the eleven in place, the prime objective would be to win the game with a good performance setting up for the next games. 

What to expect from Ferencváros?

The Hungarian Champions play Barcelona for the first time in an official game despite getting found on the same year as Barcelona(1899). Over the years, they have played multiple friendlies against Barça with the last one happening 43 years ago. From a statistical point of view, the Catalans are unbeaten over the six games that happened over the course of more than 50 years. 

The Zöld Sasok were one of the best teams in the country’s history during the mid 20th century. Hungary was the epitome of football during the era where they were better than any other country on the planet despite the lack of laurels. Ferencváros was Barça legend László Kubala’s home before he came to Spain as a refugee. He even returned to the Catalan club in a later stint as a coach. 

Ferencváros have a settled eleven that they have used over the season. They have primarily used 4-2-3-1, the same as Barça. With two league victories in the last two years, they have secured a spot in the UCL after 25 years. With nine goals in the five qualifying games, they have an able attack to challenge big teams on the counter. Tokmac Chol Nguen is their top scorer this season and can be a potential goal threat cutting in from the left. 

Coming into the game as obvious underdogs, they have a chance to spring a surprise with no expectations from their side. In recent years, Barça have struggled against the underdogs to some extent in the group stages. 


Form

FC Barcelona

Previous games: LDWWW

Getafe 1–0 Barcelona | La Liga
Barcelona 1–1 Sevilla | La Liga
Celta Vigo 0–3 Barcelona | La Liga
Barcelona 4–0 Villarreal | La Liga
Barcelona 1–0 Elche | Joan Gamper Trophy

Position in La Liga

9th
7 points in 4 games
2 wins, 1 draw and 1 loss
8 Goals Scored, 2 Goals Conceded
+6 Goal Difference

“We’ve played four games and we’ve scored eight goals, I don’t know if there is any team who does better. I’m not worried about scoring goals, we have enough quality. The last two games we’ve also played against teams that defend very well.”

Ronald Koeman (pre-match press conference)

Ferencváros TC

Previous games: WWDDW

Kisvarda 0–2 Ferencváros | Nemzeti Bajnokság
Ferencváros 2–1 Puskas Akademia| Nemzeti Bajnokság
Ferencváros 0–0 Molde | Nemzeti Bajnokság
Molde 3–3 Ferencváros | Nemzeti Bajnokság
Rackeve 1–6 Ferencváros | Magyur Kupa

Position in Nemzeti Bajnokság

1st
13 points in 5 games
4 win, 1 draw and 0 losses
12 Goals Scored, 3 Goal Conceded
+9 Goal Difference

Head-to-head record

Last 5 meetings

Barcelona 3–0 Ferencváros | Friendly
Barcelona 2–2 Ferencváros | Friendly
Barcelona 3–3 Ferencváros | Friendly
Barcelona 4–0 Ferencváros | Friendly
Barcelona 2–0 Ferencváros | Friendly


Match facts

• Barcelona are undefeated in their last 5 matches against Ferencváros.

• The last game between the two teams happened 43 years ago.

• Ferencváros are undefeated in 12 of their last 13 matches (Champions League).


Team news and possible line-ups

FC Barcelona

Absences

Injured: Samuel Umtiti (knee), Marc-André ter Stegen (Tendon), Jordi Alba (Hamstring)
Suspended: 

Possible line-up

4–2–3–1
Neto
Roberto · Ronald Araújo · Lenglet · Dest
Frenkie de Jong · Pjanić 
Coutinho
Dembélé · Griezmann · Fati
Coach: Ronald Koeman

Ferencváros TC

Absences

Injured: None
Suspended: None

Possible line-up

4–2–31
Dibusz
Lovrencsics · Blazic · Kovacevic · Heister
Somalia · Kharatin·
Isael · Siger · Nguen
Boli
Coach: Serhiy Rebrov


Predictions

The first Champions League game of the season for Barcelona is with possibly the most comfortable opponent they could have had. Even with heavy rotations, winning this game should be a cake-walk. However, anything can happen on UCL nights. 

Barça Universal prediction: 4-0 win for the Catalans. 

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