By 90Min
February 05, 2018

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde admitted his side struggled to adapt to the conditions during their 1-1 draw with Espanyol in the fourth Catalan Derby of the season on Sunday afternoon. 

As the persistent, and torrential, rainfall continued to batter the Estadi Cornella-El Prat, making it tough for any fluidity in the contest to be present, it was the hosts who asserted their dominance first, breaking the deadlock shortly after the hour mark as Gerard Moreno was able to get his head onto the end of Sergio Garcia's beautifully fizzed cross to power his effort past the attempts of Blaugrana goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen. 

However, with less than 10 minutes remaining, following their best spell throughout the 90, Gerard Pique, who had been subjected to a barrage of abuse from the home fans throughout, returned in kind and converted substitute Lionel Messi's free-kick to take a share of the spoils back to Camp Nou. 

However, despite the stalemate sitting Valverde in the history books as his side recorded Barcelona's best ever start to a La Liga campaign, remaining unbeaten for 22 fixtures; surpassing the previous milestone of 21 set by a Pep Guardiola outfit, the Spaniard believes his side struggled to adapt to the almost bog-like setting and that Espanyol were the ones who used it to their advantage in a more effective way. 

"[It was] difficult because, as the game progressed, we could play less and had to adapt to the conditions on the fly", the 53-year-old told a post-match press conference, as quoted by Marca.

"In the second-half, with the rain, the ball kept stopping and the pitch was dangerous.

"Taking into account our style, I think it was difficult for us to adapt. We were forced to play long and I think [Espanyol] took advantage of the conditions."

Pique had been cast as the afternoon's pantomime villain during the clash, with the centre-back on the receiving end of high levels of animosity during the contest after his recent claims that Espanyol were not part of the city of Barcelona. 

However, as is often the case, the home supporters were further enraged when the 31-year-old levelled things up late on and made his way towards them before putting his finger to his lips, which certainly added spice to the remaining minutes.  

"We already know what these game are going to be like", Valverde said.

"In the first-half there were a few fouls, but then it warmed up, which is the usual for a derby. Every tackle seemed to be something more than a simple tackle because the players slip.

Alex Caparros/GettyImages

"I contextualise [Pique's celebration] as part of all that gone on this week and how the rivalry has unfolded.

"He's been good for us because he assumes a lot of responsibility in these games."

Blaugrana struggled throughout the contest to assert their regular dominance in possession, with the emergence of substitute Messi changing that on a drastic scale. 

However, despite his side evidently holding less attacking prowess during the absence of the Argentine, Valverde did not look upon his decision not to include the attacker from the start as the catalyst for the overall disappointing result and insisted every player will be subject to rotation at some point in the season. 

"There are many games in a row and we have to be a little careful", he added.

"We usually do so with each player. I had planned to do it on the fly. He can win us many things at any ground."

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