Espanyol v Barcelona - as it happened!Pedro and Davi Villa scored two goals apiece as Barça dismantled their city rivals without breaking sweat
Pedro and Davi Villa scored two goals apiece as Barça dismantled their city rivals without breaking sweat
"We are not afraid of Barcelona, but we know we have to go to war. We are going to play football, but we know that we are facing the best team in the world, and we need to use our own weapons. We must be a united group, and if we are not it will be become difficult for us to win. We will try to give joy to the people. We must be calm, and feeling the support of the fans will give us strength."
Blimey! The words of Espanyol's striker Pablo Daniel Osvaldo make tonight's match sound like it could be a little bit feisty. I can't see this being anything other than a Barça win, mind; 46 goals in 15 matches, including that shellacking of Madrid in recent weeks. They are a team playing football perfectly. They are at the pinnacle and may be there for some time to come.
So what have Espanyol got going for them? Well, they've won every match at Estadi Cornellà-El Prat in La Liga this season. In the past two home matches against Barcelona they haven't lost either – last April when they drew 0-0 in the league, and in the Copa del Rey in January 2009, when the scoreline was the same. They're currently a very creditable fourth in La Liga too, but have scored only 17 goals in their 15 league matches. So if they are to get anything from tonight's game it will likely be a draw at best.
My prediction: Espanyol 0-3 Barcelona
Is that snow?
Here are the teams:
Espanyol Kameni; Chica, Forlin, V Ruiz, Didac; Baena, J Marquez, Callejon, Verdu; Luis Garcia, Osvaldo
Substitutes: Cristian, David Garcia, Amat, Datolo, S Garcia, A Vazquez, Ivan Alonso
Barcelona: Valdes; Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abida; Busquets, Iniesta, Xavi; ;Messi, Pedro, Villa
Substitutes: Pinto, Adriano, Mascherano, Maxwell, Bojan, Keita, Thiago
Incidentally, if you hear an explosion tonight it's probably Roy Keane flipping in spectacular fashion, as it looks like Ipswich v Leicester has just been called off after 70 minutes with Ipswich 3-0 up. They're trying to clear the snow to get them back out again ... but it's falling that hard in Suffolk that it seems a bit pointless. No such trouble in Catalonia, though. It's a balmy six degrees there ...
6.57pm: It's almost time for kick-off. Anyone out there?
There's a great atmosphere at Estadi Cornellà-El Prat as the teams trot out. Blue Santa outfits dotted about here and there ...
Kick-off: The ref, whose name I don't know I'm afraid, blows his whistle and gets this one underway. Barça are kicking from right to left on my screen. There's a thunderous noise about the place as Espanyol attack immediately down the left ...
2 min: Abidal escapes a yellow card after clattering into the back of Luis Garcia just inside the Espanyol half. He trots away all sheepish as he realises he's likely to get away with it.
4 min: An email from Chris Hunt: "Evening Gregg, nothing like a Catalonian derby to warm your cockles up on a Saturday night. Barca will be keen for this, I think your 0-3 prediction might be a bit conservative." Busquets goes close with an overhead kick after Xavi clipped in a ball from the edge of the box after a corner was played low to him from the right. It misses by a foot and maybe, if I'm being harsh, he should have done better.
6 min: "How is the snow in Catalunya?" asks Sadique. Non-existent. Although in Kings Cross it's thick and even and made cycling to work nigh-impossible and more than a tad dangerous. Osvaldo is flagged offside after a lovely ball slipped through from Verdu. Espanyol have started this match at a fair old pace. I fear that will only help Barça catch them on the break, but if they score an early goal, mind ...
8 min: Baena tries to be too clever by half as he dribbles out of defence, tripping over his own feet and presenting the ball to Messi. The little Argentinian shows great strength to pull away from Baena and then jink inside another defender on the way into the box where he hits a solid shot at Kameni, who spills it before being dug out of trouble by his defence.
10 min: Messi misses an open goal! Alves breaks free on the right after poaching possession and, with only the keeper to beat, he nicks the ball inside to Messi who, under marginal pressure, gets under the ball with his right foot and Marlon Harewoods it a yard over the bar from about 15 yards out.
13 min: Leicester and Ipswich are back out Portman Road, which looks whiter than the collection of faces at a Texan oil company's board meeting. So there'll be no Roy Keane explosion, thankfully. Barça win a corner on the left ...
15 min: The corner amounts to nothing. Espanyol are struggling to hold on to possession. They're playing it short at the back, but against three forwards they're being harrassed into eventually playing it long.
Goal! Espanyol 0-1 Barcelona (Pedro 18 min): Wonderful football from Barcelona. The ball is played straight through midfield from Puyol, Pedro knocks a first-time ball back to Messi who takes one touch and measures a pass to perfection back into the path of Pedro, who races away from his defender before changing direction to take the ball on to his right foot as he enters the box and slam it into the bottom right-hand corner.
22 min: The goal wasn't so much tiki-taka in my opinion, but still very effective. Espanyol are struggling to get out of their own half.
23 min: A nuts-and-bolts clip down the right flank leads to a chance for Espanyol, as Luis Garcia gains possession and plays a clever diagonal pass into the box to Osvaldo. He turns sharply and shapes to shoot but loses his footing as he does so. He appeals for a penalty but there was no contact and he knows there wasn't the cheating sod.
25 min: Busquets is booked for a lunge on Osvaldo. He clips his ankle and deserves to go in the book. The ball is worked through to Luis Garcia who cleverly flicks the ball over his marker before cracking a shot just wide. This is better from Espanyol.
27 min: Villa hits a shot from 25 yards out, which is deflected. The ref doesn't give a corner, probably presuming it was some Barça tiki-taka magic that made the ball swerve like it did.
Goal! Espanyol 0-2 Barcelona (Xavi 30 min): Xavi scores from the narrowest of angles. Villa sends Pedro racing down the inside-left channel, his pace causing Espanyol trouble again. He flicks the ball from left foot to right foot in the box, allowing Messi time to catch up. Messi picks Pedro's pass up on the edge of the box and scoops the ball to Xavi, 10 yards off the back post on the right-hand side. He hits a powerful cross square to Alves, but the ball bounces off him and goes straight back to Xavi who, at the second attempt, drives a shot into the far corner from the most acute of angles. Great goal. Game over, really.
33 min: Everything that has been written about Barça is so true. How do you defend against a team none of whom need to think about their first touch and who play so high up the pitch that you can't get out of your own half, unless you lump it?
36 min: Did I say lump it? That's exactly what Espanyol do in order to create a clear chance for Osvaldo. The Argentine runs clear from Puyol after a flick-on before hitting a powerful shot low to Valdes's left-hand side, but the under-employed goalkeeper shows no signs of rustiness as he gets down sharply to turn the ball around the post.
38 min: Corner = 0. Do corners ever amount to much these days?
39 min: Ridiculous stuff from Barça! Espanyol create another half-chance, which Barcelona eventually snuff out before playing the ball out of their own 18-yard box as if they are playing five-a-side. It was so cocky it was almost offensive.
41 min: "Is the Luis Garcia you described flicking a ball over a defender's head and then having a shot, the former scouser Luis Garcia? Here's hoping he can ghost one in a la his goal against Chelsea back in the day, just to make a game of it," writes Ian Copestake. Sorry Ian, it's not little Luis Garcia. This one's much bigger, slightly younger and probably not as good.
43 min: Villa torments Didac in the right-hand corner and lures the defender into giving away a free-kick ...
44 min: Messi and Xavi stand over it. Messi drills it in and Didac heads it clear for a corner. It's played short (well 30 yards back to Iniesta if that counts as short). Iniesta nicks the ball back to Messi, who spreads play to Pique who stays up after the corner to collect the ball on the right wing. He shows good pace to ghost past his marker but hits his shot over the bar.
Half-time: Villa dallies on the ball for too long after he is sent racing clear by one of Barça's many string-pullers in midfield. He shuffles the ball on to his right foot but gives the Espanyol defence too long to get back and hussle him out of possession. Peep!
"Watching from Barcelona, Pedro has just started scoring in the last few games, when all Barça's strikers hit form the rest can start worrying. Are there any other derbies where there are no rival fans in the stadium?" asks John West. I presume there are John, probably where fans are more interested in a dust-up than the football. Are there any La Liga teams who are known for having decent travelling support?
"Well Gregg, Espanyol have put up quite a decent fight in this match," offers D Yogesh. "It's just that I think Barça are currently firing on all cylinders and that makes it difficult to contain them. Espanyol can not even foul most of Barça's players. My prediction: 4-1 Barcelona." That's the frightening thing with Barça. They are so quick in possession and so accurate with it, that they wear teams down to the point that the opposition has no energy to attack when they do have the ball.
45 min: Peep! Barça haven't scored yet. Anyone seen any good films recently?
46 min: Messi just gave away possession a bit like I often do on a Sunday. It doesn't lead to anything. Just thought it was worth mentioning.
47 min: "Hope you can get home safely," writes Stewart Dillon. Thanks mate.
49 min: Barça almost score again. Pedro breaks down the left after Chica had left his station at right-back on a rare forray forwards for Espanyol. Pedro squares the ball towards Messi, but Ruiz does brilliantly to throw his right leg at the ball and divert it wide for a corner.
51 min: Espanyol clear the corner and commit a number of players forwards. Their greatest hope is to try to pin Barça back by keeping three players high up.
53 min: This is a good spell for Espanyol. They win a free-kick 30 yards from goal on the right-hand side at a great angle for a cross ...
54 min: J Marquez whacks it woefully into the wall and Barça regain possession. Here's a film recommedation from Kobinna Monney: "Good films? Catfish - a must for anyone who has interest in the nature of social networks, it's a film best to see when you know very little about it ..."
55 min: Messi and Alves combine on the right, working a shooting opportunity for the right-back (de facto winger?), but he's flagged offside. The pace of the match has picked up in the last five minutes.
57 min: Pedro gives away a cheap free-kick 35 yards from Barça's goal on the left. Luis Garcia dinks a thoughtful pass around the wall with his right foot looking for Osvaldo's run, but it skips off the turf and finds the safe hands of Valdes. Nice idea though.
59 min: Is Gary Naylor going on holiday? "So Roy Keane breathing fire was enough to get conditions back to playable at Portman Road - any chance of him pitching up at Gatwick Airport tomorrow morning?" Where are you off to Gary? And will you be able to email in?
Goal! Espanyol 0-3 Barcelona (Pedro 60): Messi bursts forwards from midfield and beats one man before using Pedro like a wall to play a delicious one-two and collect the ball on the edge of the box. He drills a shot to the left corner which Kameni palms into the path of Pedro who finishes under pressure. Great poaching!
Goal! Espanyol 1-3 Barcelona (Osvaldo 62 min): Espanyol pick Barça's pocket almost immediately. Osvaldo exposes Puyol's lack of pace with a run on to a well-weighted pass into the right-hand channel, taking one touch into the box before despatching a powerful shot into the bottom-left corner. Game on? Don't think so.
66 min: Well that was a bit frantic. Datolo has come on for Luis Garcia as Espanyol look to close the gap. Ruiz cynically hauls back Pedro and is booked for his trouble. the free-kick is on the left just outside the box at a great angle for a whipped-in cross.
68 min: Messi curls the ball in with pace but Espanyol's defenders attack the ball and clear the danger. Alves is booked for acting like a spoilt child and throwing a hissy-fit after not receiving a free-kick.
70 min: Calahan shows great pace on the left and exposes Alves's lax approach to being a right-back, collecting the ball in acres and clipping an accurate cross into the back-post where Osvaldo heads over.
72 min: Another chance for Osvaldo after Xavi is dispossessed in midfield. I'll admit I didn't see who played Osvaldo through on goal but his finish is woeful, opening his body up to curl the ball past Valdes but scuffing it into his arms when he had support to his right from Verdu.
74 min: Espanyol sub: Chica replaced by Amat. That happened some moments ago. Sorry for my tardiness.
Goal! Espanyol 1-4 Barcelona (Villa 76 min): Messi exposes Espanyol's high-line sublimely by delaying his pass until Villa is within half-a-hair's width of being offside before slipping him straight through the middle. He hares down on Kameni and opens his body up to show Osvaldo how to slip a ball past a goalkeeper's left-hand side from 15 yards out. Yup, it's all over again now ...
78 min: Busquets off. Mascherano on. We'll see some misplaced passes from Barça now he's on. Great hussler but his passing is limited at best.
79 min: The answer to the corner conundrum: "Apparently the stats say that only 1 in 40 corners results in a goal directly (header or shot, not direct in the goal, that seems to have gone out of fashion...) Are you counting?" asks Jeremy Boyce. Nope, but we've not had anything like 40 corners so perhaps there'll be a goal from one in the next La Liga match.
81 min: Messi twists and turns and Messis his way through midfield before laying a delicious pass into Abidal's path on the left-hand corner of Espanyol's box, but the Frenchman fires an excuse of a shot at goal which Kameni catches comfortably.
82 min: "Gregg - it's even more important than my going on holiday, it's the kids and their mother going on holiday," says Gary Naylor. "I get to stay in Tooting and watch Sky Sports 24 hours per day (or not, if I have to cede the remote). IT'S THAT CRUCIAL!!!" It's like Christmas has come early for you Gary ...
Espanyol 1-5 Barcelona (Villa 84 min): Villa gets his second goal of the match after Xavi waves his wand in midfield and conjures a neat ball inside his marker to Villa, who races away from Didac and opens his body up again before sidefooting the ball into the left-hand corner. Kameni should have saved it in my opinion, it wasn't all that powerful.
87 min: Barcelona score five goals as often as the postman brings post.
88 min: Iniesta is given a lovely warm round of applause as he is substituted. It's thanks for his tribute to the late Espanyol player Dani Jarque. You wouldn't get that at many other derby games. Hats off to Espanyol's fans.
90 min: Bojan, who replaces Iniesta, almost takes the margin of victory to five, after Xavi slips him into that inside-left channel which has been so profitable for Barça. He tries to beat Kameni at his far-post but doesn't get any power into the shot.
90+2 min: Bojan has another attempt which Kameni does well to tip over. The referee puts Espanyol out of their misery by bringing an end to the game before Barça can take the corner.
Post-match reflections: Well, that was all very predictable. Still, the manner with which Barça dismantled a very good Espanyol team was frightening. It was a derby against a team in a Champions League spot and they brushed them aside without ever really igniting. Arsenal fans ought not to be thinking about how their team can beat Barcelona, but how they can avoid being embarrassed by them. Thanks for your emails. I'm off to find my skis.