Far too many times in the past, they've seen a clearly inferior Espanyol taken apart by Barcelona. If they are going to lose the game, at least the hosts can go down fighting. Not that there will be any thoughts of simply handing three points on a plate to their nearest rivals. The double pivot of Pape Diop and ex-Barca man Victor Sanchez is crucial to what happens at both ends of the pitch. Sanchez in particular likes to put himself about, but an early transgression will stifle his ability to break up play. He is also the one to break out from a more defensive role and support the front four, something he tends to do consistently and effectively. If either player can impose his game on the visitors and disrupt the efforts of Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic in the process, it leaves Jordi Alba and Dani Alves as the main providers of balls into the box or direct to feet.
You get nothing in these games from being a shrinking violet, and although on the face of it, it's a bold and brave selection from Calca, often risk can bring reward. Marco Asensio has a roaming central attacking role and will try and play Felipe Caicedo in at every opportunity. If that particular passing lane isn't available to him, he has more than enough skill to be able to play in either wide man, Gerard Moreno or Hernan Perez.
Both sides have the luxury of being at almost full strength, but Espanyol do have the weight of history falling heavily upon their shoulders. Per Fussball Wettpoint, in 25 matches over the last 10 years, Barca have lost only twice: once at Camp Nou in 2009 and once at the Estadi Olimpic Lluis Companys, Espanyol's old ground, in 2007. Another win here would put Barca at La Liga summit with a game still in hand over all of the chasing pack. Date: Saturday, January 2Time: 3 p. m. GMT/10 a. ETVenue: Power8 Stadium, Barcelona, SpainTV Info: Sky Sports red button (Highlights only from 5:15 p. m., UK only)/beIN Sports 1 (U. S. only)Live Stream: Sky Go (UK only)/beIN Sports Connect (U. only)Form LinesLast 6 ResultsEspanyolBarcelonaL 0-2 vs. SevillaW 4-0 vs. Real BetisW 1-0 vs.
This might be the only game for a while where Alves and Rakitic get to play the entire 90 minutes as it would be unreasonable to expect that Vidal and Turan won't play some part in most of the matches in January. The rest of Barca's back line picks itself at this point: Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano, Alba and Claudio Bravo. Sergio Busquets is the final piece in this particular Blaugrana jigsaw.
Player to Watch On loan from Real Madrid, 19-year-old Marco Asensio has rapidly made a name for himself at Espanyol. Signed predominantly to get some regular game time with no real prospect of the same at the Santiago Bernabeu in the near future, Asensio has been one of the standout players for the Periquitos. Although he hasn't yet hit the goal trail himself, the central attacking midfielder has set up five of Espanyol's 16 league goals during 2015/16, per WhoScored. He is a livewire youngster who is always available to receive a pass and has the knack of finding space in the most congested areas of the pitch.
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