The roller-coaster existence that is Barcelona these days has seen another twist in the tale, with former player Ronald Koeman making way for former player Xavi while former player Dani Alves rejoins the club. It’s as if the ghost of Pep Guardiola’s dream team has risen and reassembled at the Camp Nou.
Xavi, for all the hype and talk of him chiming with the club’s ethos, having Barcelona DNA and all that, is still something of a managerial enigma. Having only tested himself in Qatar with Al Sadd over the last two years, it is still not yet clear whether the midfield immortal has what it takes to make it at the highest level.
However, this opening game should offer a glimpse of his tactical blueprint and the mental fortitude of his side. It’s a local derby to kick things off, with fellow Catalan club Espanyol making the short venture to the Camp Nou, knowing they have lost their last 11 meetings against Barcelona in La Liga.
Since gaining promotion, Vicente Moreno’s men have made a solid re-entry into top-flight football, currently ensconced in 11th and with the scalp of Real Madrid already claimed. He will be eyeing up another giantkilling, but historically, Periquitos have struggled in this fixture, though this is a Barca side vulnerable at the minute, and they could expose their cross-city adversaries.
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Barcelona vs Espanyol: Match Stats
In recent history Barcelona have dominated this fixture; they have not lost any of their last 22 matches against their rivals in La Liga, keeping 16 clean sheets in those games. It is their longest unbeaten run against Espanyol in the competition, and Xavi will want to extend that by marking his debut with a win.
Dani Alves has returned to much fanfare, but his former full-back partner Jordi Alba is currently the man pulling the attacking strings from defence. The Spaniard has registered four assists in La Liga, including three in his last two games. In fact, he has the most assists in the competition this season without scoring.
At the Camp Nou, Barca have sealed victory in their previous 11 games against Espanyol in La Liga, a run that extends all the way back to when Xavi was still orbiting the turf with a world-class swagger. The club’s last defeat against their rivals came back in 2009, a match that featured Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and, of course, Xavi.