The win against Atletico Madrid last Sunday could very well prove to be the turning point of the season for Barcelona. The victory last Sunday was also the first major win of Barcelona in the last 2 years. A comprehensive and enthralling 4-2 win over their rivals saw the Blaugrana overtake the Rojiblancos to occupy the 4th position.
The match-up against Espanyol is another stiff test for the former La Liga champions who will start as the favorites to grab all the three available points. With that said, a win would also see them climb to the third position. League leaders Real Madrid are on 54 points from 24 games while Barca are at fifth, having played a game less than Atleti and two less than Real Madrid. A win in the Catalan derby could also see the Los Cules close down the gap to the Los Blancos.
“I see a physical, intense, and very difficult game”
Addressing the press ahead of the game on Sunday, Xavi acknowledged that it would not be easy for his side to grab a win on Sunday. The 41-year-old is expecting an intense and physically challenging Derby.
“Espanyol are a tough and intense rival, they have one of the best teams in their recent years. We’ve changed, we’re better than in the first game and we hope to consolidate things well done against Atlético.”
“In this derby, I see a physical, intense, and very difficult game.”
Eric Garcia likely to return
Xavi was also asked about the status of the injured duo of Eric Garcia and Memphis Depay. The former Al-Sadd manager revealed that Eric Garcia will be in the squad for the clash but Memphis still needs time to recover. With that said, Barca have missed Garcia as the former Manchester City defender’s forward passing is something that is essential in the buildup leading to chance creation. One can expect Eric to get some minutes tomorrow.
“Eric and Memphis? Eric is good. He’ll be with us tomorrow. We’ll see if he starts. Memphis needs more time but he’s doing well. It was a little relapse in the same area.”
One of the major talking points of Barcelona this season has been the lack of a set-piece specialist. Earlier, it used to be Lionel Messi when it came to short freekicks and penalties but with the Argentine Talisman gone, the equation seems to have changed now. This season we have already seen Jordi Alba, and Gerard Pique take freekicks. It signifies that there is no set-piece specialist at Barca at the moment. Xavi said that when it comes to freekicks he has found good options in Pedri, Ferran Torres, and Eric Garcia.
He also revealed that the likes of Aubameyang, Pique, Busquets, Eric, and Memphis are the designated specialists when it comes to penalties.
“Busquets, Piqué, Eric, Memphis, Auba… They’re all specialists and good in taking penalties. We have players ready for these kinds of situations.”
Win the La Liga Santander? Barcelona aren’t ruling out
Barcelona have not ruled out the impossible. They are currently 16 points away from bitter rivals having played two games less. With that said, Madrid can be seen losing form lately and with an El Classico still left this season, anything can happen, though Madrid still stand as the strong favorites to win the La Liga title.
“We’re not ruling anything out, but the distance is difficult,” Xavi when asked about Barca mounting a potential challenge for the title.
“The goal is to finish in the top four, but we’re not ruling anything out. The feeling is getting better and better, let’s see how far we can go.
It remains to be seen if Barcelona can carry forward the good form that was on display against Atletico at Camp Nou last Sunday. Rest assured, it is going to be yet another attacking display by the former La Liga champions.
A medical student with an avid interest for the game.