Evening all! Sports Mole
's live La Liga coverage continues from Camp Nou as Barcelona welcome Espanyol
for the Catalan derby. Barcelona will be looking to continue their perfect start to the new season, and the 24-time Spanish champions will be confident of overcoming an Espanyol team that have only managed one point from two matches this term. Stay tuned for the action!
Incredibly, Espanyol have not beaten Barcelona in any competition since February 2009 - when Periquitos recorded a 2-1 victory in this stadium. Since then, Barcelona have utterly dominated the fixtures between the two teams. Last season, Barcelona recorded a 4-1 victory in this stadium, before winning 3-0 at El Prat in April. It makes rotten reading for Espanyol fans!
Right, let me bring you up-to-speed with the all-important team news from Camp Nou. Does a certain Ousmane Dembele make his debut for Barcelona? What about Espanyol? Let's have a look...
BARCA: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta; Deulofeu, Suarez, Messi
ESPANYOL: Pau; V.Sanchez, D.Lopez, Hermoso, Aaron; Fuego, Darder, Diop; Gerard, Baptistao; Piatti
Ivan Rakitic recovers from a muscular problem to start for Barcelona, while Luis Suarez
returns from a knee injury to take his place in the final third of the field. There is no spot in the XI for Ousmane Dembele, however, with the summer arrival from Borussia Dortmund starting on the bench as Gerard Deulofeu is given the nod alongside Suarez and Lionel Messi
. Deulofeu over Dembele then.
As for Espanyol, Victor Sanchez shakes off an injury to start, but Diego Lopez, Oscar Duarte and Javi Lopez all miss out for the visitors. Further forward, Leo Baptistao is joined by Gerard Moreno and Pablo Piatti in a 4-3-3 formation, while Mario Hermoso makes his Espanyol debut at centre-back.
So there we have it. The two teams are in, and we are now just about 40 minutes from kickoff on this warm evening in Barcelona. I shall speak about the away side a little bit later, but let's start with the hosts. Ernesto Valverde
's side suffered a 5-1 defeat to Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup last month, but the Catalan side have opened their new league season with two straight wins.
Indeed, a comfortable 2-0 win over Real Betis on August 20 was followed by a 2-0 victory at Alaves before the international break. Barcelona have not been spectacular in the early weeks of the new season – far from it – but they have managed to put six points on the board. It was a difficult summer for Barcelona, but this is still a squad packed full of incredible footballers.
The powers-that-be did not manage to convince Liverpool to sell Philippe Coutinho in the latter stages of the transfer window, but Ousmane Dembele arrived from Dortmund, and as mentioned, he starts on the bench tonight. There is no question that the Barcelona supporters needed a player to ease the loss of Neymar, and Dembele will be looking to make an impression if he gets on here!
In terms of what is ahead for Barcelona, the Spanish giants have the small matter of a home game against Juventus in the Champions League on Tuesday night. The group stage begins in some style for Valverde's team, who will also take on Sporting Lisbon and Olympiacos in that competition.
Barcelona will then travel to Getafe, welcome Eibar and visit Girona in their next three league matches, before finishing the month with a trip to Sporting in the Champions League, and a home league game against Las Palmas. September is extremely busy in terms of fixtures, and then another dreaded international break will occur at the start of October. Not again.
As for Espanyol, Quique Sanchez's team opened their 2017-18 La Liga campaign with a 1-1 draw at Sevilla on August 19, but will enter this match off the back of a 1-0 defeat at home to Leganes before the international break. This is not the fixture that Espanyol would have wanted as they look for a win, especially considering their rotten derby record against Barcelona.
A very impressive 2016-17 La Liga season saw Espanyol finish in eighth position, and Sanchez will be looking to oversee another positive campaign. Felipe Caicedo and Mamadou Sylla are among those to have left the club in the summer transfer window, but Naldo, Pablo Piatti, Mario Hermoso, Sergi Darder and Didac Vila have all moved to El Prat. The atmosphere is really building here!
Sergio Garcia is also back with Espanyol after leaving Al-Rayyan on a free transfer earlier this year. The 34-year-old scored 40 times in 152 appearances for Espanyol before leaving for Qatar, and he is back with the Catalan giants after agreeing a one-year contract in June. Garcia starts on the bench tonight.
Here we go then! Both sets of players have joined us on the pitch ahead of kickoff at Camp Nou. Just a reminder that Dembele is on the bench for Barcelona tonight, with Deulofeu given the nod alongside Luis Suarez and Messi in the final third. Let's hope for an entertaining night of football.
KICKOFF! Barcelona kick things off on home soil...
... as expected, Barcelona have taken control of the possession in the opening couple of minutes. It has been a nervy start from Espanyol as Fuego is forced to clear over his own crossbar after Deulofeu had found a yard of space inside the box. Deulofeu needs to impress for the hosts tonight.
Half-chance for Messi as the Argentine dances to the edge of the Espanyol box, but he curls his effort high of the crossbar. Espanyol are already coming under some serious pressure here.
Barcelona have been very sharp in the opening six minutes as they continue to move the ball in the final third of the field. Espanyol are just sitting deep and attempting to absorb the pressure.
Rakitic just tried to take Fuego for a dance inside the Espanyol box, and the referee was on hand to blow for a free kick. Rakitic pulled a very interesting face while grappling with his opponent!
Still one-way traffic as Barcelona pass and probe in the final third, but the home side have not created a clear chance in the opening minutes, with Espanyol pretty solid at the back.
Espanyol just cannot get the ball into Moreno at the moment, although the visitors are in a really good shape, which is making it difficult for Barcelona to pick that final pass. You get the feeling that the first goal - if there indeed is one - could be crucial. Still level with 12 minutes played.
Espanyol have adopted a high press in the last few minutes, and it is forcing Barcelona back.
Half-chance for Barcelona as Luis Suarez attempts to find Rakitic with a header at the far post, but the ball drops behind the Croatian, and Espanyol can clear their lines once again here.
Still goalless with 19 minutes on the clock, and we are still waiting for the first serious chance of the match. Barcelona have had a couple of half-chances, but nothing that has worried Pau Lopez between the sticks. Messi, however, is currently standing over a free kick 40 yards from goal...
... SAVE! Lopez has to keep out Suarez's powerful free kick!
BOOKING! Busquets (Barcelona) is booked for a tug on Baptistao.
Plenty of ball for Barcelona, but not too much else at the moment.
Barcelona's possession statistics are up to 80%, which is incredible for a game at this level, but Espanyol continue to resist the pressure in the most important area of the field.
GOAL! Barcelona 1-0 Espanyol (Messi)
Barcelona take the lead in the 26th minute as Messi collects a super pass from Rakitic inside the box before dancing past the challenge of Hermoso and finishing into the top corner. What a player!
Oh no, replays show that Messi was actually offside! Tough on Espanyol!
BOOKING! David Lopez (Espanyol) is booked for handball.
Espanyol need to be very, very careful that they do not concede a second before the break. It would be very difficult for the visitors to respond if they fall two goals behind at Camp Nou. Barcelona have just had another free kick in a dangerous area, but the wall blocked Suarez's attempt.
SAVE! Super work from Espanyol goalkeeper Lopez as the Spaniard keeps out an attempt from Rakitic, who looked to pick out the bottom corner from close range. Great work!
Super defending from Semedo as the Barcelona right-back just beats Moreno to a Piatti cross. Espanyol are carrying more of a threat in the final third as we approach the interval here.
GOAL! Barcelona 2-0 Espanyol (Messi)
Barcelona have their second of the match as Messi turns home from close range after Alba had managed to squeeze a low cross into the box. That is two for Messi in the first period.
Decent save from Pau Lopez as Barcelona continue to force the issue here.
There is just something about Espanyol in this fixture. The visitors managed to frustrate Barcelona in the opening 20 minutes or so, but a brace from Messi has almost decided this contest before the interval. Suddenly there are gaps all over the pitch as Luis Suarez strikes over the crossbar.
An ambitious effort from Baptistao rises over the Barcelona crossbar.
POST! Espanyol come close to registering late in the first period as Piatti finds space inside the Barcelona box, but his effort smashes against the post. So unlucky for the Argentine!
Luis Suarez shows a wonderful touch inside the Espanyol box to kill a pass from Rakitic, but Pau Lopez is on hand to collect. Still 2-0 Barcelona as we approach the final moments of this first period.
HALF-TIME: Barcelona 2-0 Espanyol
So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to a close with Barcelona leading Espanyol 2-0 courtesy of a double from Messi, who registered in the 26th and 35th minute. Espanyol were pretty good in the opening 20 minutes, but Barcelona are now in complete control of this match.
STATISTICS! Barcelona enjoyed 74% possession in the first period, while the hosts had 10 attempts - five of which were on target. Espanyol, meanwhile, failed to hit the target with any of their three attempts, although Piatti hit the woodwork late in the first period. Busquets and David Lopez are in the book.
BENCH WATCH! Dembele will be hoping to make his Barcelona debut tonight, and we should see the Frenchman in the second 45 minutes. Fellow new arrival Paulinho is also in reserve, in addition to Paco Alcacer, Andre Gomes, Lucas Digne and Javier Mascherano. As for Espanyol, head coach Flores has options in the shape of Sergio Garcia and Jurado. Something has to change for the visitors here.
RESTART! Espanyol resume the action here...
... no changes from either side at the break, which is not too much of a surprise. However, I suspect that both managers will already have alterations in mind for the second period here.
CHANCE! Super goalkeeping from Pau Lopez as the Spaniard keeps out a clever Luis Suarez effort, who met a cross from Rakitic. Barcelona are forcing the issue early in the second period.
Many questioned Barcelona's decision to bring Deulofeu back to the club this summer, but the Spaniard has been impressive in the early weeks of the season. Maybe Dembele will have to wait!
CLOSE! A mistake from Alba presents Piatti with a wonderful chance inside the Barcelona box, but the Argentine loops his effort wide of the post. What a chance there!
Messi sees his attempt deflected wide of the post as this game continues to produce exciting moments. It has been end-to-end football at the start of the second period. Great entertainment.
CHANCE! Another super chance for Luis Suarez as Messi squares to his fellow forward inside the Espanyol box, but the striker lifts his effort over the crossbar. Big chance!
Big cheers around the stadium as Dembele is sent to warm-up with 57 minutes on the clock.
ESPANYOL SUB! Sergio Garcia replaces Piatti for Espanyol.
The Barcelona supporters are absolutely desperate to see Dembele, but Deulofeu has played well once again tonight. That said, Dembele will surely be given the final 15 minutes or so tonight.
BOOKING! Sanchez (Espanyol) is booked for a foul on Alba.
CHANCE! Super chance for Espanyol as Baptistao finds space inside the Barcelona box, but the striker's effort is blocked behind by Umtiti! Great defending there.
Little over 25 minutes of the second period remaining, and Barcelona still lead 2-0 courtesy of that first-half Messi brace. Barcelona have still not conceded in the league this season.
Dembele is preparing to enter the field for his Barcelona debut.
GOAL! Barcelona 3-0 Espanyol (Messi, hat-trick)
Hat-trick! Messi makes it three for the night as the Argentine sweeps the ball into the bottom corner after meeting a clever pass from Alba. That is game, set and match tonight.
BARCELONA SUB! Dembele replaces Deulofeu for his Barcelona debut.
BOOKING! Darder (Espanyol) is booked for dissent.
Paulinho is preparing to enter the field for his home Barcelona debut.
BARCELONA SUB! Paulinho replaces Busquets for Barcelona.
BOOKING! Martin (Espanyol) is booked for a late challenge on Dembele.
ESPANYOL SUB! Darder is replaced by Didac in Espanyol's third change.
Little over 10 minutes of the Catalan derby, and it has been another miserable night for Espanyol against Barcelona. Andre Gomes is preparing to enter the field for the home side here.
BARCELONA SUB! Andre Gomes replaces Iniesta for Barcelona.
Little under 10 minutes of the second period remaining, and Barcelona are extremely comfortable. Luis Suarez is still searching for that elusive goal, and the striker has just been denied by Hermoso.
CLOSE! Paulinho comes close to scoring, but he turns wide from close range!
SAVE! Ter Stegen makes a super save to keep out a strike from Didac!
Messi curls over the crossbar from the edge of box after a smart pass from Luis Suarez.
BOOKING! Diop (Espanyol) is booked for a foul on Messi.
GOAL! Barcelona 4-0 Espanyol (Pique)
It is 4-0 for Barcelona as Pique finds the back of the net with a powerful header!
Espanyol's punishment is almost over as we head for the final minute of normal time.
GOAL! Barcelona 5-0 Espanyol (Luis Suarez)
Barcelona have their fifth as Dembele delivers a wonderful cross into Luis Suarez, and the striker carefully places the ball into the far corner. Super work from Dembele there!
We are into the third and final minute of added time here.
FULL-TIME: Barcelona 5-0 Espanyol
So there we have it. The referee brings the second period to a close with Barcelona running out 5-0 winners over Catalan rivals Espanyol at Camp Nou. What a performance from the home side! Thanks for joining Sports Mole for our live commentary once again. Until next time!