Barcelona vs Espanyol Preview: Key Battle, Recent Form, Team News & More
Barcelona will look to make it three wins from three as they host local rivals Espanyol at the Nou Camp on Saturday night. Having returned from an international break, the players will be keen to continue their winning start and assert their dominance on this La Liga campaign.
Facing their toughest opposition so far, Espanyol will not be rolled over easily - but Barcelona will be the firm favourites of course. Armed with the return of Luis Suarez from a lengthy absence, expect goals in this local derby.
Having missed Croatia's World Cup qualifier against Turkey in midweek, Ivan Rakitic will not start against Espanyol. Suffering from a thigh injury, Rakitic is working on a return with some gym work. Andres Iniesta will be rested having played two games for Spain and a big clash against Juventus in the Champions League fast approaching.
As previously mentioned, the return of Luis Suarez to the side will be a big boost for Ernesto Valverde. Having suffered from cramp against Argentina, the Uruguayan has been passed fit in time for this match. The omission of club record signing Ousmane Dembele will steal the headlines, as the Frenchman has been training alone in order to regain fitness and shape.
Predicted Barcelona Lineup: Ter Stegen, Vidal, Pique, Umtiti, Jordi Alba, Paulinho, Busquets, Sergi Roberto, Messi, Suárez; Deulofeu
Predicted Espanyol Lineup: Diego Lopez, Aarón Caricol, Naldo Gomes, David Lopez, Sergio Sanchez, Fuego, Diop, Piatti, Jurado, Gerard Moreno, Baptistao
Barcelona have started the season well, with two back to back 2-0 wins - albeit against weak opposition. Lionel Messi was the difference in Barcelona's last La Liga game, netting a brace against Deportivo Alaves. Barcelona remain one of three teams on maximum points in La Liga this season.
On the other hand, it has been a frustrating start to the season for Espanyol, who are yet to pickup three points. An impressive opening day draw against Sevilla was clouded by the belief they could have won - which was followed by a surprise 1-0 loss to Leganes, in what was a tightly contested fixture.
Lionel Messi vs Aarón Caricol
With Barcelona struggling to find their usual scoring form, once again Messi has proved to be the talisman in the side. Last time out, the Argentine picked himself up from a missed penalty and went on to net twice against Alaves.
This attitude is one that Valverde will want to resonate throughout his side - aware of his abilities, Messi would not let that early miss define his match. At just 20 years of age, Espanyol left back Aarón Caricol will be tasked with keeping the world's best player quiet.
Espanyol haven’t beaten their biggest rivals since the 2008/09 season, and come Saturday this will be unlikely to change. With Barcelona boosted by the return of hitman Luis Suarez, and with Messi in form as well - it's almost impossible to look past a Barca win.
Prediction: Barcelona 4-0 Espanyol