FC Barcelona were far from their best as they defeated city rivals Espanyol 1-0 in the Catalan derby at the Camp Nou on Wednesday night.
A goal from Luis Suárez on 56 minutes was enough to claim the all-important three points as Barça look to keep up with La Liga leaders Real Madrid in the race for the domestic title.
There was nearly a shock when Espanyol’s Didac Vila struck the base of the post from the resulting rebound after Barça defender Clément Lenglet nearly put through his own net on the stroke of half time.
Both teams were reduced to 10 men after the break when Ansu Fati was dismissed on 50 minutes, five minutes after being sent on as a second-half substitute, with Pol Lozano also receiving red three minutes later for the away side.
There was a late scare when David López struck the ball which hit Arturo Vidal on the shoulder on 90 minutes, with VAR stating no penalty.
Here are five things we learned from the match…
FC Barcelona do enough without getting out of third gear
Barça were far from their best, but they didn’t need to be against a side fighting for the lives with the hope of remaining in La Liga. It was a testament of the fitness of the players given the fact they turned out in the searing heat and humidity – with the temperature 26 degrees pitchside.
Suárez’s strike on 56 minutes was enough as it was the only time the front three of Lionel Messi, Antione Griezmann all linked together with the Uruguayan goalscorer.
Marc André ter Stegen to the rescue once again
When Barça need their players at their best, the Germany international shot-stopper was a standout performer yet again.
He prevented Lenglet from finding his own net, sparing his blushes and produced a number of excellent stops to deny the away side throughout the match.
Espanyol will play in the Segunda División next season
If there was one team that Espanyol didn’t want to face needing an away win, it was their city rivals.
The away side were not disgraced as they had 11 shots versus Barça’s 12, with three on target against the home sides four.
As you would expect, Quique Setién’s side dominated with 68% possession overall. Espanyol’s defeat was there sixth consecutive in La Liga, which is a joint club record.
There is still plenty in his tank as Suárez saves Barça
The talismanic Uruguayan netted his 15th goal of the season and this is an excellent return given the fact he had been off with an injury layoff. His goal means he became FC Barcelona’s outright-third highest scorer as he took his tally to 195 goals for the club. The 33-year-old sits behind César Rodríguez (232) and Messi (630).
A lot has been said on Lautaro Martínez, the 22-year-old Argentinian forward who is expected to replace Suárez at the club next season, but the Uruguayan simply has a lot more to offer and it is highly unlikely Martínez will be drafted in anytime soon given the clubs financial situation following Covid-19 and his €111million release clause.
Barça will not relinquish their La Liga crown without a fight
The win moves Barça to within one point of arch-rivals and leaders Real Madrid, who have a game in hand.
Both teams are in uncharted waters as no La Liga season has finished in the scorching heat of July. Fitness may yet prove the difference. All of the pressure now switches to Los Blancos’ game against Alavés at the Santiago Bernabéu tomorrow night.