Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde says Espanyol are favorites to qualify after their 1-0 win over Barcelona in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarter-final tie. A second-half goal from Oscar Melendo was enough for the hosts to end Barca’s long unbeaten run and Valverde admits it is not a good result for his side.“I liked my team because they had a good attitude, the pitch was hard to combine everything,” he said.
”We tried to do what we know and there are things you have to accept, they defended and ran and we congratulate them.”We await them at the Camp Nou. The favorites in a knockout is the team which is winning.”It’s not a good result because we haven’t scored here, we know that if they score at the Camp Nou we will have to score three.”
As far as big European city derbies go, this is one of the least competitive. It’s close to a decade now since Espanyol beat Barcelona and they were hammered 5-0 at Camp Nou earlier this season. They tend to be slightly more competitive at home but it’s still hard to look past the visitors here. Barcelona may rotate their team slightly following an excellent comeback win at Real Sociedad at the weekend.
However with this now being a Quarter-Final as well as a local derby, we should see a much stronger side than the one than that started in Vigo in the 1st Leg of the last round. With a 9 point cushion at the top of La Liga, they can afford to target the Copa del Rey too and there is a 4 day interval between this game and their weekend trip to Betis, so Ernesto Valverde will feel that’s a reasonable recovery period for most of his players.
They take on an Espanyol side that are in decent form with just 1 defeat in their last 6 matches. They were dealt a boost too by Quique Sánchez Flores deciding to stay at the club rather than join Stoke City last week, however there is still not really enough about them to suggest an upset is likely.
Going forward, Espanyol are a little one-dimensional and have only netted 0.84 goals per game this term. Unlike their illustrious neighbours they don’t really have a great deal of quality in reserve to bring in fresh legs for this one so that could be a factor. Defensively they’ve been pretty good in La Liga but Barcelona are clearly going to provide a much greater threat than most teams in the Spanish top flight.
Leo Messi continues to deliver some exceptional displays but others are stepping up to the plate now. Paulinho has exceeded expectations since his summer arrival while Luis Suarez has also really hit form in recent weeks. Uruguayan has been able to net at least once in all of his last six Barcelona appearances and backing Suarez to score anytime could be worth considering here. Team selection will be a factor but if Barcelona go reasonably strong, they sh