How Barcelona Will Line Up Against Espanyol

Jason PettigroveContributor IOctober 31, 2013

Xavi Hernandez can expect to be rested for this game.
Xavi Hernandez can expect to be rested for this game.

Only six days after "El Clasico," Barcelona cross swords with their nearest rivals Espanyol in "El Derbi."

Javier Aguirre's men have one hell of a task on their hands on Friday. Espanyol's last win at Camp Nou in 2008/09 was also the last time that they managed to score a goal there. Prior to that win, you have to go right back to 1981/82 for the last time they took all of the points back home with them.

However, they come into this game in reasonable form and shouldn't be taken lightly. Inflicting Atletico Madrid's only defeat this season is proof of the threat that they possess.

Although they have lost four of their 11 La Liga fixtures, with four wins and three draws, including a 0-0 vs. Malaga last time out, sees the "Periquitos" sitting comfortably in eighth place and just a couple of wins behind Villarreal in fourth.

Espanyol's keeper Kiko Casilla might be hoping for a quieter night than that which he endured against Malaga. Whilst neither team started that game particularly well, it was Casilla's three vital saves over the course of the 90 minutes that earned his team the point. 

Ex-Barca man Victor Sanchez would surely love to put one over on the club where he made his senior debut during the Pep Guardiola era. Sanchez has yet to experience a win in this fixture in the colours of the "blanquiblaus" and will bring some bite to the Espanyol midfield alongside David Lopez.

This is the perfect game for Tata Martino to give Sergi Roberto a run out, and he should revel in the blood and thunder of a local derby. Martino hinted at the player's inclusion for the game against Celta Vigo, so it was somewhat of a surprise that Roberto didn't even make the bench.

Victor Sanchez has yet to taste victory against Barcelona.
Victor Sanchez has yet to taste victory against Barcelona./Getty Images

Barca don't play again after this game until the Champions League return against AC Milan next Wednesday, which allows Martino the absolute luxury of giving some senior players a week's rest—from the Celta game—if he wishes to rotate again in this one.

Assuming that to be the case, and Martino's modus operandi this season would appear to support that assertion, then there is no valid reason why Roberto should be left out on this occasion.

Roberto excels in a variety of midfield roles, but expect to see him in the playmaking role in this one, ably supported by Andres Iniesta. Espanyol fans will always have the upmost respect for Iniesta, after his public homage to their former captain Dani Jarque.

Alex Song should also get some vital minutes in this one, allowing Sergio Busquets another chance to recharge his batteries.

Adriano Correia is unlikely to have recovered from his hamstring injury in time for this game, and Martino's decision on the makeup of his defence will be heavily influenced by whether he plays Martin Montoya in his place again or not.

Sergi Roberto could well play the full 90 minutes.
Sergi Roberto could well play the full 90 minutes./Getty Images

If not, we can expect to see Carles Puyol deputise in a not unfamiliar role for him, albeit he will have his hands full with either Christian Stuani or Pizzi raiding down the Espanyol right.

A Javier Mascherano and Marc Bartra partnership allows Gerard Pique some more recovery from his injury, and there is no shifting Dani Alves on the right of the defensive four.

Martino shouldn't go "gung-ho" and make wholesale changes for the sake of it, so there needs to be a core staff retained. To that end, Lionel Messi will start—back in the centre, where he can cause untold problems for Sidnei and Hector Moreno.

In form and high on confidence, Alexis Sanchez deserves a continued run in the side; along with a returning Neymar, the Chilean makes up a front three that are bang in form and ready to help extend Martino's amazing unbeaten start to his Barca managerial career.