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.
Luis Enrique could well think about rotations with such a run of games over the next few weeks, but Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan are not available until the next game. After a five-month wait, Lucho will at least have options in a number of key areas. It was almost a year to the day that a defeat away to Real Sociedad kickstarted Barca's 2015, and they begin this year in a healthier and happier vein.
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. Spreading the play wide will suit the hosts as they pack the central areas to make life a lot more difficult for the likes of Luis Suarez, Neymar and Lionel Messi. Javi Lopez, Enzo Roco and Alvaro Gonzalez have all performed admirably for the most part this season, but if there is a weak link at the back, it's down Espanyol's left side.
It's also the type of move from the manager that should be applauded. 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. 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.
Ruben Duarte struggled against Lionel Messi for long periods in the same fixture last season. Manu Fernandez/Associated PressRuben Duarte struggled against Messi last year, and although the Argentinian is still finding his way back to full fitness, he'll give the defender the runaround again if Duarte isn't at the races here. Young Pau in goal is tasked with keeping a clean sheet against the most devastating front three in the league, and it's a brave call to continue giving the 21-year-old his wings.
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. Las PalmasW 3-0 vs. River PlateW 2-1 vs. LevanteW 3-0 vs. Guangzhou EvergrandeL 0-1 vs. Celta VigoD 2-2 vs.
Deportivo La CorunaD 1-1 vs. LevanteD 1-1 vs. Bayer LeverkusenD 1-1 vs. LevanteD 1-1 vs. ValenciaWhoScored. comPredicted Formations Predicted Espanyol and Barcelona formations. this11. comGalca will stick to an attacking 4-2-3-1 formation, which could play right into Barca's hands. The home support will demand nothing less than a cavalier approach to a game that will give them local bragging rights for a few days at least. Far too many times in the past, they've seen a clearly inferior Espanyol taken apart by Barcelona.
Almost a year to the day, Luis Enrique's rotations cost his Barca side a win at Real Sociedad. It was a pivotal moment in Barca's treble-winning season. Alvaro Barrientos/Associated Press/Associated PressEspanyol's results to this point have been patchy at best, and with a ratio of just one goal a game since the beginning of the season, it's obvious where the problems lie for Constantin Galca's side.
Espanyol - Real Sociedad » Live Score & Stream + Odds
Espanyol vs Real Sociedad live score, H2H and lineups