This was an interesting, if not necessary game.
I was happy to see Denis and Alena get the start. Vidal on the right was unremarkable, overall I thought it was a positive line-up with necessary rotations.
Sergi's game has really gotten back to its heights since last season. It is often easy to forget how pivotal he is to the team when the likes of Messi and Suarez are doing all the goal scoring, however, he's been really shinning this season. Early in the game, he showed his skills with some smooth moves against the Espanyol midfield.
Physical play from Espanyol
It's clear that the tactic against Barcelona on this day was to disrupt play by being physical. Espanyol played a scrappy game with many fouls, including a pk against Sergio Roberto. The strategy seemed to work as they effectively prevented Barcelona from really getting a proper flow going.
At the 60th minute mark, Messi, Denis and Busquets were the best players on the field. All were positive offensively including young Denis who not only had the only other shot up to that, point (with Messi having the others) but had made some key dribbles and positive forward passes.
This was my first biggest point of contention with this game, Valverde removing young Alena and Denis prior to removing Vidal was confusing. Vidal did very little on that right side, he is typically much better than that. The insistence on keeping him on, was like removing Paulinho on Sunday and keeping on Gomes. It just didn’t make sense when considering Denis had been so positive.
Criticism against Denis Suarez
This is my biggest point of contention with not just this game but Barcelona fans in general right now, and commentators. You look at twitter, you read game reports and everyone is saying, Denis didn't take his chance, was a 4 this game when Vidal got a 5 and Gomes got a 6 last game. The same people calling to keep Gomes are calling to get rid of Denis.
I JUST DON’T GET IT!!! Since when was making forward passes, taking on defenders, taking shots on goal in a game where the only other person doing it was THE Lionel Messi the kind of actions that got people asking that you get sold. He has had STATISTICALLY a bigger impact than the majority of players in the midfield ESPECIALLY Andre Gomes.
The goal he failed to score this game was directly due to Alena taking an extra touch before passing the ball. His technique was solid as he had to go near post because the defender had closed down the far post option, which was much more desirable from that angle. This happens every time plays, I am not sure if it's because people expect more of him or if people are just not seeing. Either way, this nonsense has got to stop.
29 games unbeaten coming into the game and going into the serious end of the season could be a gift and a curse. It's best we got this loss out of the way, I am sure the second leg will be much different and I look forward to a renewed determination with this squad as we fall into trophy-winning season!