The Catalan derby, over the past few years, has been a one-sided affair. Coming into this game, Barcelona had a head-to-head record of 4 wins and a draw in their previous 5 meetings. And one would have expected them to live up to the expectations.
Expectations were honoured at the Nou Camp and the win left Barcelona three points behind league leaders Real Madrid (although the current leaders have a game in hand). The match was dominated by Barcelona as they ran out 4-1 winners on the night.
Luis Suarez, Jordi Alba and Lionel Messi were the scorers for Barcelona while Lopez Silva managed a 79th-minute consolation for Espanyol.
Marc-André Ter Stegen – 6.5/10
With only a single shot on target, the Barcelona keeper had a quiet afternoon. The initial nervousness that led to a hurried clearance in the opening 10 minutes was the only aberration of what was a very calming performance. The German keeper wasn’t at fault for the only goal scored by Espanyol’s Lopez.
Sergi Roberto - 8.5/10
The full-back was at his mobile best as he manned the right flank with considerable dedication and flair. His efforts were rewarded when he played a key role in setting up Messi's goal at the death. A full-blooded performance by the youngster who has had his fair share of critics over the course of this season.
Gerard Piqué – 8/10
Another calm and measured performance by the Spanish defender, Pique kept things simple, won his aerial battles and played the ball out of defence. A calm operator in the centre of defence, and alongside Mascherano, he ensured that the threats of the Espanyol attackers were nullified.
Javier Mascherano – 7/10
A surprise inclusion given that Umtiti it has performed quite well over the past few weeks. However, the Argentinean was rarely troubled in defence as he smoothly adjusted to the rigours of the derby. His tackle was instrumental in creating the opening goal and from there on things only got easier.
Jordi Alba – 9/10
A fantastic performance by the Spanish full-back was capped off with a goal. His improved defending was also a highlight of the game and he did well on the counter to support the Barcelona attackers.
Denis Suárez – 6.5/10
He didn’t contribute significantly in the game but kept the game ticking by keeping things simple. Chosen ahead of Ratikic, the Spaniard didn’t attempt anything flamboyant.
Sergio Busquets – 7.5/10
After the criticism he has received this season, Busquets displayed a much better performance in this game and ensured that he took up good positions to break up attacks. He did attract a lot of attention for shoving his hands in Lopez’s face in the 29th minute and was fortunate not to be booked.
Andres Iniesta – 8.5/10
The maestro again orchestrated the Barca midfield and was responsible for the majority of Barca’s attacking advances. The long ball pass to set up Suarez for his first goal was just a reminder of the silky skills.
Lionel Messi – 10/10
Buzzed with energy whenever he was on the ball and was the architect of Suarez’s second goal. The Argentinean body feinted his way past the entire clutch of Espanyol defenders before firing in a shot which fell into the path of Suarez, who duly dispatched it. That aside, he also got on the scoresheet.
Luis Suárez – 9/10
Lethal finishing aside, the Uruguayan was also involved in drawing out defenders and leaving space for others to run into. His second goal showcased his poaching qualities in the box and with 12 goals in the league, he along with Messi continues to be the league’s top scorers.
Neymar – 8/10
May not have been on the scoresheet but was a lively presence throughout. Almost set up Messi for the opening goal as the Argentine fired wide on the run. Created enough chances to ensure his manager that the goal drought is only a phase.
Rafinha – 6/10
Replaced Dennis Suarez in the middle and stuck to maintaining control of the game.
Umtiti – NA
Too late to make any substantial contribution in the game after replacing Busquets.
Diego López – 6.5/10
Injury robbed him of a full appearance at the Nou Camp. Made a couple of excellent saves till he was replaced in the 53rd minute and was responsible for keeping the score down.
Diego Reyes – 6/10
Defensively caught out time and again but could do little to counter the threats of Messi and Suarez in the middle.
David López – 7/10
Struggled to get a foothold in the game and for the opening minutes and was harrowed by the pace and movement of the Barca trio. Scored an excellent goal to give some consolation to the travelling supporters.
Javi Lopez – 6.5/10
Started off solidly before the trio of Messi, Suarez and Neymar outplayed him. Will hope for a much better performance in the coming weeks.
Aaron Martín Caricol – 5.5/10
Booked as early as the 13th minute, the full-back then played with caution. The opposing defence took this advantage to bomb down his flank and at times he was outmanoeuvred and outpaced.
Pablo Piatti – 6/10
Another early booking but Piatti maintained his levels of aggression and went toe-to-toe with Alba in the first half. However, he was nullified in the second half as the Barcelona full-back raised his game to outrun him.
Fuego Martínez – 6/10
Tried to stymie the influence of Iniesta but was unable to make ground on the wily Spaniard.
Pape Diop – 6/10
The Senegalese midfielder tried his best in midfield to impose himself physically but was outsmarted and outwitted by the quick thinking Iniesta.
Jurado – 6.5/10
The winger ran up and down the left flank in the first half before being completely shut out of the game. Will have to do better and involve his teammates further in the game.
Felipe Caicedo – 6.5/10
An isolated performance by Caicedo as his teammates failed to bring him into the game and his frustrations were compounded further when he was booked in the 65th minute.
Gerard Moreno Balaguer – 6/10
A masterful touch to set up Lopez’s goal was the only real contribution in the game by Moreno after which he was largely absent. Playing behind the striker, he didn’t do much to trouble the Barca defence.
Jiménez Gago – 5.5/10
Came on as a substitute and promptly went on to concede two quick goals which more or less settled the game. His fumble from Messi’s strike led to the second goal for Suarez, but blame can’t be laid on him as he didn’t expect Messi to trick all the defenders that were lined up in front of him.
Jose Antonio Reyes - NA
Oscar Melendo - NAPublished 19 Dec 2016, 10:48 IST