Barça spent a whole week inside the Top 4 for the first time since September but are already out of it again thanks to a crazy win by Atlético on Saturday, so the Blaugrana need three points to make it two weeks in a row in a Champions League place. That is the only goal for the rest of the season, and even the high-profile Europa League Playoff against Napoli on Thursday is not as important as securing a high league position.
Xavi’s men looked amazing against the defending champions last week but now the challenge is to build upon that. It can’t be a one-off, a perfect storm due to the boost of new signings and an amazing Camp Nou crowd. That is now the standard of performances that must be maintained until the end of the season to accomplish the objective.
The month of February requires that standard because of the quality of the opponents and the importance of the games, and Espanyol will provide a very tough test. They are perhaps the least talented team Barça will face this month, but they have proven almost impossible to beat at home and will no doubt raise their game for their biggest rivals.
The Periquitos have lost some steam after a strong start to the season but remain a well-coached side and will make it a real battle for all 90 minutes. If Barça can play with the same intensity and attacking creativity from last week, however, they can absolutely win this and keep the momentum going.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Dest, Araujo, Piqué, Alba; Pedri, Busquets, F. De Jong; Adama, Ferran, Gavi.
Espanyol (4-2-3-1): López; Vidal, Gómez, Cabrera, Pedrosa; Darder, Morlanes; Vilhena, Melendo, Puado; De Tomás
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