Espanyol 2-2 Barcelona: 5 Talking Points | LaLiga 2019/2020 

RCD Espanyol v FC Barcelona - La Liga
RCD Espanyol v FC Barcelona - La Liga

It was derby day in Catalunya, with Espanyol hosting Barcelona at the RCDE Stadium in a LaLiga clash.

Both sides came into the fixture in different halves of the table, with the Blaugrana in second place while their city rivals occupying the bottom spot.

Given the quality of players on display for Barcelona, it was expected that they would stroll their way to victory but the reality proved to be different, with the hosts going into a first half lead after David Lopez nodded a Marc Roca freekick past Neto in the 23rd minute.

The visitors got their leveller soon after the restart when Luis Suarez showed great expertise to convert a pin-point delivery from Jordi Alba.

Nine minutes later, the Uruguayan turned provider, excellently finding Arturo Vidal with the outside of his boot for the former Juventus man to score his 6th LaLiga goal of the season.

Expectedly, it became one-way traffic, with Ernesto Valverde's men dominating possession but they failed to take advantage of the few clear-cut chances they created.

They were made to pay for their profligacy three minutes from time when Wu Lei converted with a well drilled shot into the bottom-right corner.

The stalemate means that Barcelona failed to kick start the year with a victory and here, we shall be highlighting five talking points from the fixture.

#5 Barcelona fail to reclaim advantage in LaLiga race

RCD Espanyol v FC Barcelona - La Liga
RCD Espanyol v FC Barcelona - La Liga

Barcelona have largely strolled their way to each of the last two league titles, posting an 11-point gap last time out and a 14-point gap at the summit two seasons ago.

However, a combination of factors including their underperformance and the improvement of other teams means that they would have to be on their toes if they are to make it a three-peat in the Spanish top-flight this term.

They came into the latest round of fixtures two points ahead of Clasico rivals Real Madrid whose 3-0 victory earlier in the day saw them move ahead.

A win for the Catalans would have seen them restore their two point advantage at the summit but their failure to do so saw them lose their grip at the top.

#4 Aberlado Fernandez makes an impact

RCD Espanyol v FC Barcelona - La Liga
RCD Espanyol v FC Barcelona - La Liga

Espanyol impressively finished in 7th position last season, earning qualification to the Europa League and it was expected that they would build on this.

That, however, turned out not to be the case, as whereas they impressed in the continent, their domestic form was nothing to write home about.

Heading into the new year, the Catalans sat bottom of LaLiga having won just two of their first 20 matches and it was this disastrous form that led to the termination of first David Gallego and then Pablo Machin's contracts and the appointment of former Alaves boss Aberlado Fernandez.

The Asturian could not have gotten a tougher first fixture, as his side hosted Barcelona to kick off his tenure.

He, however, helped mastermind a famous result and although it wasn't a victory, the significance of the point was not lost on the home fans who were rocking at full time as though they had won the league.

Despite the point, Espanyol are still bottom of the league but if Fernandez can oversee more positive results like this, the tide might well turn in what is looking like a sinking campaign.

#3 Wu Lei makes history

Wu Lei became the first Chinese player to score a competitive goal against Barcelona
Wu Lei became the first Chinese player to score a competitive goal against Barcelona

When Espanyol spent €2m to sign Wu Lei from Shanghai SIPG in January 2019, many would have been forgiven for asking Wu who?

The 28-year-old was virtually an unknown commodity in mainstream Europe but he had made a name for himself in the Far East.

Over a decade ago, he became the youngest player to ever appear in the Chinese top-flight when he did so aged just 14 years and 287 days and held the record for most goals in Chinese Super League history.

Despite these, many still saw him as a marketing signing to boost Espanyol's popularity in China but any of those still in doubt about his abilities would begin to have second thoughts.

Wu Lei was introduced in the game in the 74th minute for Oscar Melendo and he made his impact felt 14 minutes later when he drilled past Neto to secure a point for Espanyol.

In the process, he became the first Chinese player to ever score a competitive goal against Barcelona and fans of his club would hope that he would be on hand to create more history.

#2 Quiet day at office for Lionel Messi

Messi was quiet against Espanyol
Messi was quiet against Espanyol

When the Barcelona players trudged outside from the dressing room for the resumption of the second half, all cameras in the stadium panned on the club's number 10 and rightly so.

At that point, Barcelona were 1-0 down and had lacked any of sense of purpose or direction in the first half.

They were in need of inspiration and everybody expected that source of inspiration to come from their captain.

Lionel Messi has been the difference maker time and again for the Blaugrana over the years that his genius is almost taken for granted but on the day, he was outshone by his friend and teammate Luis Suarez.

The Uruguayan international was the star of the show, inspiring Barcelona's comeback with a goal and assist and while it was not enough to pick up all three points, there can be no denying the impact the former Liverpool man had.

By contrast, Messi was uncharacteristically off-colour and was nowhere near the majestic levels we have come to associate with him over the years.

There were undeniably moments of brilliance, such as when he dribbled across five players to find Luis Suarez in the second half but on the overall balance of play, it was a poor day at the office for the mercurial Argentine.

The blank drawn against Espanyol means that Messi has now scored just one goal in his last four matches and while not yet alarming, Barcelona would need him at his best to achieve their aims on all fronts.

#1 Frenkie de Jong's moment of madness costs Barcelona

RCD Espanyol v FC Barcelona - La Liga
RCD Espanyol v FC Barcelona - La Liga

In an era where Barcelona have been more associated with expensive flops than right purchases, a case can be made to consider Frenkie de Jong as the club's best signing in the last four years.

Despite costing £75m, the Dutch international has slotted in effortlessly and has been an ever-present in midfield for the Catalans.

He has impressed with his ball retention skills and distribution and while Messi and Suarez might get all the plaudits upfront, de Jong's job alongside Busquets in the middle should not be taken for granted.

The 22-year-old has appeared in every single one of Barcelona's 19 league matches to date and he was handed his 17th start against Espanyol.

After a relatively quiet first half, the former Ajax international was issued a caution for cynically thwarting an Espanyol counter in the 66th and despite walking on a tight rope, he still made some more rash challenges that were overlooked by the referee.

Frenkie de Jong is supremely confident in the ball but this proved to be his undoing in the 75th minute when he lost possession right in front of his box and was shown a second yellow for aggressively trying to win the ball back.

Espanyol took advantage of the extra space in midfield and deservedly got an equalizer and while Frenkie de Jong might be one of Barcelona's standout performers this season, his red card played a part in them dropping points against Espanyol.

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Edited by Kingshuk Kusari
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