RCD Espanyol – FC Barcelona: Stellar Messi leads Barcelona to crush Espanyol in tactical battle of pressing systems and counterattacks (0-4)
An initially conservative Espanyol changed their approach after Messi’s first brilliant free kick goal. However, Barcelona’s fire power of Suárez, Dembélé and a stellar Messi still came out on the top in the ensuing battle of pressing systems and defense-to-attack transitions. The second half saw Espanyol unable to change this dynamic from the bench.
Tactical analysis and match report by José Perez.
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde has worked incessantly this season to find the ideal game plan and lineup for his team. Perhaps one of the central questions for Valverde is whether Ousmane Dembélé and Philippe Coutinho can really play together in the same lineup. Valverde’s initial attempts to play both talented attackers together led to severe defensive issues. Barcelona has found greater stability in benching one of them and using an additional central midfielder to accompany Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitić, usually Arthur Melo or Arturo Vidal.
Against Espanyol, Valverde continued this trend. Barcelona started their usual 4-3-3 shape, once again conditioned by the injuries of key men Sergi Roberto, Samuel Umtiti and Arthur. Just as last week against Villarreal, Nelson Semedo, Clement Lenglet and Arturo Vidal started instead. Perhaps the most surprising change was in the left winger position, where Coutinho was dropped from the starting lineup in favor of Dembélé, bringing back the Messi – Suárez – Dembélé trio that Barcelona used in the beginning of the season.
Espanyol haven’t enjoyed their last month in LaLiga. After being top five both in the league table and in expected goal The . . .