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Espanyol 1-0 FC Barcelona: 5 Talking Points

Espanyol v Barcelona - Spanish Copa del Rey
FC Barcelona lost a crucial first leg tie in the Copa Del Rey quarter-finals against Espanyol
Sumedh Pande

Score: Espanyol 1-0 FC Barcelona

Goalscorer: Oscar Melendo 88'

FC Barcelona lost a football match. I repeat, FC Barcelona have lost a game of football. 29 matches and 5 months later, the Catalans suffered their first defeat of the season at the hands of their local rivals. Espanyol won the first leg of the Copa Del Rey quarter-finals 1-0 thanks to a late winner from substitute Oscar Melendo, the 20-year-old local lad.

FC Barcelona had a number of chances to win this game including a penalty. But Lionel Messi failed to score from the spot as his penalty woes came back to haunt him. On that note, let's discuss this game in further detail and look at the five key talking points that emerged from Barcelona's shock 1-0 defeat against Espanyol.


#5 Espanyol's tactics stifle FC Barcelona

Espanyol v Barcelona - Spanish Copa del Rey
Espanyol's tactics paid off

With Luis Suarez rested and Andres Iniesta out injured, FC Barcelona's starting lineup lacked creativity from the word go. Espanyol sensed that and sat deep in the first half, making the visitors work hard for their chances. Playing in a 3-4-2-1 formation, Espanyol had the first line of defence with five men and the second with four players holding their ground in midfield.

Gerard Moreno was left for scraps in the first half up top while his side looked to contain the threat of the opponents. Quique Sanchez Flores, the Espanyol manager then made positive substitutions in the second half and tried to move further up the pitch.

It resulted in a brilliant contest in the final quarter of the game with the hosts sneaking with a goal right at the end. Flores' Espanyol closed down spaces well and made Barcelona work a bit extra which led to their downfall. This result gives them a great chance of turning the odds in the second leg and knocking the reigning champions out of the competition.

#4 Ernesto Valverde gives the fringe players a chance

Espanyol v Barcelona - Spanish Copa del Rey
Valverde gave his fringe players a chance to impress

With injuries piling up, Valverde made a big call to make changes in his lineup, some forced and some with one eye on the transfer window. Often during the market period, clubs give a chance to the fringe players to impress one last time and to give other clubs a chance to look at them.

Aleix Vidal's start on the right of the three-man attack was one such move. The versatile full-back has struggled for minutes under Valverde which made this a surprise inclusion from the manager. But with Sevilla and Everton lurking for him will Barcelona also looking to cut their losses, this was a ploy to show Vidal's potential suitors what he can do.

Similarly, Rafinha, an Inter Milan target, made his comeback from a long-term injury haul as a second-half substitute. Inter Milan reportedly have already had a €25 million rebuffed with Barcelona looking for at least €40 million for the Brazilian midfielder.

This could have been the duo's last appearance in a Catalan shirt with the club actively looking to offload them this January.

#3 Espanyol supporters may land in trouble

Espanyol v Barcelona - Spanish Copa del Rey
Espanyol faithful hurled an object at Jasper Cillessen in the second half

This was a night to remember and a result to savour for the Espanyol faithful. After all, they had beaten FC Barcelona, their bitter rivals for the first time in their new stadium and also a derby win after eight long years. But an incident that occurred in the second half may hinder Espanyol's joy in the coming days.

FC Barcelona's keeper on the night, Jasper Cillessen was hit reportedly by a bottle cap in the second half, thrown at him by the home supporters. The custodian complained to the referee who would have most probably included this incident in his match report to the Spanish FA.

This is not the first time that Espanyol supporters have caused a ruckus with their actions. In the 2016 Copa Del Rey clash at their home stadium, Espanyol fans taunted Gerard Pique over his wife and pop singer, Shakira.

At the end, this was an incident which could have been easily avoided and with their team doing all the work on the field, there was no need for the supporters to get in on the act.

#2 Lionel Messi's penalty woes resurface

Espanyol v Barcelona - Spanish Copa del Rey
Lionel Messi's one weakness resurfaces

Minute 61. Espanyol's Esteban Granero rushed on to Sergio Busquets who was tripped and fell down in an instance. The referee pointed to the spot and the match was on the cusp of changing momentum. On stepped Lionel Messi to take the resulting spot kick. On current form, one would have expected Messi to bury it with ease.

But Diego Lopez dived to his right and palmed away the penalty as well as Barcelona's chance to take a huge advantage back to the Camp Nou. In Messi's defence, he had struck it sweetly with the ball expected to hit the right bottom corner. Credit to Lopez for guessing right and then making a world-class save.

This was his second penalty miss in a month and the second against the same goalkeeper in his career. Messi had missed one in December against Deportivo La Coruna. Penalties have been a weak link in Messi's armoury in the recent past, perhaps proving the world of his human qualities.

Remarkably, the miss against Espanyol was Messi's 23rd failure in his career to score from the spot. The Argentine talisman would look to improve on this aspect ahead of the Champions League knockout games and more importantly, the World Cup in the summer.

#1 The famed streak comes to a halt

Espanyol v Barcelona - Spanish Copa del Rey
FC Barcelona lose a football match after five months

Guess, this was a week where the mighty teams with long unbeaten runs were brought back to earth with a defeat. First, it was Manchester City on the weekend against Liverpool and days after, it was the turn of FC Barcelona to finally lose a game of football.

After a 2-0 defeat against Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup, FC Barcelona went without a defeat in all competitions. Their fine unbeaten run lasted for 29 matches which included the six European group games. This Barcelona side had shown a new-found fighting attitude this season, winning games right at the end and snatching a victory on even their bad days.

But last night Espanyol showed the rest of Europe how it's done! With a defensive outlook, Los Pericos frustrated Barcelona and then hit them on the counter to end their much appreciated unbeaten run. With a Champions League match against Chelsea approaching fast, Espanyol may have provided others with the blueprint on how to beat this FC Barcelona side.

Edited by Raunak J

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