A second half strike from Alexis Sanchez gave Barcelona a 1-0 win over Espanyol in the Catalan derby.
Tata Martino gave back Alexis his place in the starting XI after his goalscoring substitute appearance in the Clasico last weekend. The Chile international was named up front alongside Neymar and Lionel Messi, whilst Martin Montoya came in at left-back in place of the injured Adriano.
For Espanyol meanwhile, midfielder David Lopez started despite picking up five bookings in midweek, after the League’s disciplinary committee was adjourned due to the All Saints Day holiday.
It was clear how the Periquitos were going to set-up for the match, sitting back from the off and trying to hit the Blaugrana on the break. It didn’t seem to work though, early on, as Sanchez and Neymar tested Kiko Casilla with efforts inside the first 10 minutes.
Javier Aguirre’s men were remaining tight at the back, getting most of their men behind the ball. But the home side did get through the wall of blue and white shirts on the odd occasion. Dani Alves and Neymar were finding spaces out wide, but more than once were underwhelming with their final ball.
And that profligacy nearly cost the hosts towards the end of the half as a mix up between Alves and Victor Valdes saw Victor Sanchez poke a shot in on goal – but the goalkeeper stuck out a leg and made a superb save.
Andres Iniesta forced the goalkeeper into a smart save, after a long distance strike, right on the stroke of half time, and Dani Alves went even closer just seconds later, hitting the post. But going into the interval, Barca were left reeling after failing to get the better of their city rivals.
After the break, the pattern of the match continued very much where it had left off. The home team though, were sorting out their final ball and were causing the Espanyol defence a lot more problems as a result.
Messi and Xavi went close with headers, whilst Neymar curled one just past the far post that almost opened the scoring.
And the deadlock was finally broken on 68 minutes as Neymar crossed from the left, only for Alexis to pop up at the far post and tap in from close-range.
If fans thought the Periquitos would open up and try to get an equaliser, they were wrong. The visitors seemed content to sit and frustrate Martino’s team, as the remainder of the half fizzled out.
Barcelona 1-0 Espanyol
Scorers: Alexis 68 (B)
Barcelona: Valdes; Alves, Pique, Mascherano (Bartra 89), Montoya; Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta (Cesc 86); Alexis (Pedro 83), Messi, Neymar
Espanyol: Kiko Casilla; Raúl R, Sidnei, H. Moreno, Fuentes; David López, Abraham, Víctor Sánchez; Thievy (Cordoba 64), Torje, S. García.