Three talking points ahead of Espanyol vs Barcelona: Glory, Derby, Busquets
The last time Barcelona faced Espanyol, club football had just returned after the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The derby that ensued saw the two teams engage in a tussle of the highest quality and ended with the Cornella-based side taking two points away from Xavi Hernandez’s side.
The Azulgranas won 12 of their following 13 matches across all competitions after that draw and it is safe to say that their season pivoted at that point.
Not only did they lift the Spanish Super Cup but they also established a solid gap atop the league standings as part of that unbelievable run.
It is only fitting that the story ends where it began. Sunday’s derby will be an important affair for both teams for a contrastingly different reason.
While one side attempts to reach utopia, the other will have to put up a fight for their very survival and the situation could not be more poetic.
Barça Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Espanyol vs Barcelona.
1. The sweet taste of glory
2022-23 has been a mixed season for Barcelona of many sorts. There have been times during the season when the Catalans appeared like the most potent setups in Europe. On other nights, however, nothing could save them from complete collapse.
From winning the Spanish Super Cup to being eliminated from Europe twice, the season has been long and dreary. The ups and downs see no end, and it is clear that Xavi Hernandez’s men require consistency.
However, Barcelona’s topsy-turvy season could peak tomorrow night. On Sunday, the Blaugranas have the first of their many chances to mathematically seal the title and thereby inscribe their names as the champions for 2022-23.
With just five matchdays remaining in La Liga, Barcelona sit on a staggering total of 82 points. They have lost just thrice all season, conceded just 11 goals, and are deservedly leaders at the top of the pack.
Both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid play before Barcelona this weekend. If the two Madrid-based sides lose or draw their respective matches, Barcelona will be proclaimed champions even before kickoff at the Cornella.
The clash against Espanyol will not be easy by any means. However, given the full-strength squad available and the sheer tenacity Barcelona have displayed in La Liga this season, one would back them to take all three points and celebrate a special moment.
2. A possible derby for the ages
Barcelona have won several accolades in competitions across the world over the past few decades. The Catalans are one of football’s most successful teams in history and are on the cusp of winning their 27th La Liga title on Sunday.
What makes the occasion special this time around is the near-impossible timing of the famed Catalans derby at RCD Cornella.
Barcelona and Espanyol have never produced a dull 90 minutes of football playing against each other in recent years. Both Catalan institutions have contrasting ideologies and polar fanbases, making the derby an event characterised by passion and emotion.
Seven red cards have been shown in the last five meetings between the two rivals. In fact, their most recent game this season at Spotify Camp Nou ended in a 1-1 draw with just 20 players on the field.
Barcelona and Espanyol find themselves on polar ends of the league table this season. While Xavi’s men sit comfortably in first place, the hosts on the night are in a serious battle to avoid relegation and currently sit in 19th place with 31 points.
On Sunday, Barcelona thus have the chance to not only win the La Liga title in the stadium of their local rivals but also push them one step closer to relegation. As Joan Laporta recently described the situation, a win on Sunday would be the best way for Xavi’s side to cap off their league run this season.
3. All eyes on Sergio Busquets
Amidst the bustle of the derby and the contrasting emotions running through the minds of both sets of players, there will be one player in focus on Sunday night – Sergio Busquets.
After 18 wonderful and illustrious years in the midfield of Barcelona, the Spaniard announced earlier this week that this would be his final season at the club.
The captain has been a fundamental part of the Catalan setup across generations, and it is only fitting that he leaves with a league trophy in his pocket.
Busquets will play five more games in a Barcelona shirt, but tomorrow could mark the veteran’s final competitive game of sorts. After all, the remaining games on the club’s calendar will be redundant once the title is won.
The midfielder will go down in history as one of the greatest midfielders to have ever graced the field. As he steps onto the field for one of his final games at the club he calls home, all eyes will be on him and the fairytale end to an unbelievable career in garnet-and-blue.