The long-awaited return of Xavi Hernández to Barça, this time as coach, will have his debut in the Barcelona League derby against Espanyol this Saturday at 2:00 pm (Honduran time) at the Camp Nou, which will also serve to that the two citizen rivals meet again after a season without seeing each other because of the relegation of the blue and white team to the Second Division.
In his time as a player, Xavi did quite well in this match. With the Barça shirt he played 36 derbies against Espanyol between the League, the King’s Cup and the Spanish Super Cup and only lost 2. Of the rest, he won 25 and drew 9. In addition, he scored 6 goals.
The derby returns to the League after a hiatus season, which was Espanyol in the Second Division. Precisely, Barça was in charge of mathematically sending the Blue and White team to the silver category with the 1-0 victory at the Camp Nou in the 2019-2020 season.
That was the thirteenth consecutive victory for Barça in the derbies played at the Camp Nou between the League and the Copa del Rey. The balance of goals in these matches is very convincing: 40 as many locals and only 3 visitors. Espanyol have not won in the Barça fief since the 2008-2009 season, when they did it 1-2 in the league with two goals from Iván de la Peña.
Barça needs to maintain this streak to remain hooked on the League (the leader, Real Sociedad, is already 11 points away with one more game) and, above all, to translate the illusion that the returns of Xavi and Dani Alves ( although he will not be able to play until January) in positive results that raise the morale of a team that has lived low costs at this start of the season.
The Egarense coach will have Gerard Piqué, Sergi Roberto, Eric García, Nico González and Sergiño Dest available for the appointment, recovered from their respective injuries. On the other hand, it is most likely that neither Ousmane Dembélé nor Pedro González ‘Pedri’ will enter the call that Xavi will give this Saturday. Those who surely will not be in it will be Ansu Fati, Sergio Agüero and Martin Braithwaite.
The lack of available wingers is a problem for Xavi, who has made it clear publicly that he intends to open the wings when attacking. Thus, the end of the subsidiary Ez Abde, who already debuted with the first team against Celta, could have his opportunity to debut as a starter at Barça.
Espanyol presents itself in a remarkable moment of play and results. In fact, he is tied on points with the eternal rival, 17, and aspires, with his feet on the ground, to surpass the Catalans in the First classification.
The blue and white, in any case, are suspicious of the supposed bad moment of Barça. The budget of the Barça entity, despite its financial limitations, is much higher and its players are of great quality. In addition, they have the Xavi Hernández effect.
Espanyol performs at a good level on a collective level, but its performance has its own names. Forward Raúl de Tomás is the top Spanish scorer in the category with seven goals and goalkeeper Diego López, the best goalkeeper in terms of targets and matches played in the competition.
Regarding the changes in the call, the Espanyol coach, Vicente Moreno, it seems that he will not be able to count on the injured Miguelón and Óscar Gil. Keidi Bare could also have trouble playing.
– Probable lineups:
Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Mingueza, Piqué, Eric Garcia, Jordi Alba; Sergio Busquets, Nico González, Frenkie de Jong; Ez Abde or Dest, Gavi and Memphis.
Spanish: Diego López; Vidal, Sergi Gómez, Cabrera, Pedrosa; Morlanes, Darder, Herrera; Embarba, Puado and Raúl de Tomás.
Referee: Carlos del Cerro Grande (Madrid Committee)
Stadium: Camp Nou
Hour: 2.00 PM EFE (HN)