Three goals and 3 very important points should be the biggest take-away from the match at Espanyol. As disappointing as it is, Real Madrid, winning at the death (again) courtesy of a fine Marcelo effort ensured that the destiny of the league title is still very much in their hands. That being said, had Barca stumbled at all against their local rivals the title race would have officially been over, so credit where credit is due to the players for grinding out a good result.
The string of winter matches between FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol last season, in both Copa and Liga, were emotional markers for both squads. The brutality of these encounters, epitomized by Pau Lopez’ intentional stomp on Leo Messi, underscored the animosity between the teams and their respective fans. It also made it clear that with the exception of the Clásico, these Catalan derbies are two of the most intense matches of the season. I was in Barcelona for these matches last year, and the sense of anticipation was palpable.
This year, as Barcelona host Espanyol for the first time in La Liga, there is another layer of hostility to add to the mix. Luis Enrique and Espanyol coach Quique Sánchez Flores are bitter enemies due to events of nearly 20 years ago when the players were teammates at Real Madrid.
This creates a charged backdrop for 90 minutes of football, and an experience for fans that defines the Spanish word Morbo: “ghoulish delight.”