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Barcelona 4-1 Espanyol: LaLiga Santander goals, match report

Luis Suárez grabbed a double and Leo Messi and Jordi Alba each scored once as Barça saw off near neighbours Espanyol at the Camp Nou.
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Barcelona 4-1 Espanyol: LaLiga Santander goals, match report
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Barcelona 4-1 Espanyol: full-time summary

Luis Suárez scored twice as a Leo Messi and Andrés Iniesta-inspired Barcelona provisionally cut Real Madrid's advantage at the top of LaLiga with a 4-1 home win over city rivals Espanyol on Sunday evening.

Luis Enrique's second-placed side are now three points behind Real, who have a game in hand after their league clash at Valencia this weekend was postponed due to their involvement in the Club World Cup in Japan.

Messi (right) celebrates with Suárez after scoring his team's fourth.

Suárez double puts Barcelona two to the good

Suárez, who extended his Barça contract until 2021 on Friday, put the hosts ahead in the 18th minute, collecting Iniesta's pinpoint through-ball, holding off defender Diego Reyes and slotting in expertly past goalkeeper Diego López.

He then doubled Los Azulgranas' lead midway through the second 45, prodding in the rebound after substitute keeper Roberto Jiménez had kept out Messi's shot.

Suárez's name went onto the scoresheet, but much of the credit for the strike has to go to Messi, who had beaten four players with a sublime jinking run to create the opening, and was denied a memorable goal only by Jiménez's initial save.

Messi looks on as Alba (centre) celebrates with Suárez after scoring Barcelona's third goal.

Alba makes it three, López pulls one back for visitors

A minute later, Jordi Alba fired in the loose ball for Barça's third  - after the Espanyol backline had again been unable to deal with a superb Messi dribble.

Espanyol's David López (left) runs back to the centre circle after scoring for the away side, as Gerard Piqué looks on.

Defender David López then replied for Espanyol with a terrific top-corner finish from Gerard Moreno's knock-down, but it was to prove only a consolation as Los Pericos' nine-game unbeaten run in LaLiga came to an end.

Magical Messi rounds off scoring

With a minute remaining, Messi capped a fantastic individual display by re-establishing Barcelona's three-goal advantage, playing a one-two with Suárez and netting past Jiménez from close range. 

Here's how it happened:

Barcelona 4-1 Espanyol: second half live online

Peeeeep! That's it! Two for Luis Suárez and one each for Messi and Alba see off Espanyol, for whom David López hit a sublime consolation. 

Min 92 | Now Neymar goes close, but is denied by a smart Jiménez stop! He's the only member of the 'MSN' not to have found the onion bag tonight.

Min 90 | Five minutes added on. Messi draws level with Suárez on 12 league goals.

Min 89 | Goooooal! And that's that. 4-1 to Barça, Messi with it. Roberto sets Messi scampering at the Espanyol defence down the right, and the striker plays a one-two with Suárez and gobbles up the Uruguayan's dinked return to finish low past Jiménez. Class.

Min 88 | Reyes curls it towards the back stick - but it's just too long.

Min 87 | Having survived that, Espanyol earn another free-kick for Reyes to deliver. A goal now really would put the cat among the pidgeons.

Min 86 | Luis Suárez now sits atop the LaLiga scoring charts with 12. And just as I write that, Messi almost gets his 12th of the season, collecting Neymar's little pass into the box and selling a delicious dummy before shooting across goal - but it's just wide.

Min 83 | Samuel Umtiti came on for Busquets a couple of minutes ago, by the way, while for Espanyol José Antonio Reyes is on for Piatti. The ex-Sevilla man is immediately called on to swing in a dangerous free-kick for the guests, but Barça clear.

Min 78 | Goooooal! Comeback o'clock? That's also sexy football, and this time it comes couresty of the visitors. Piatti picks out Moreno on the left of the box, and defender David López is certainly not getting a nosebleed as he advances into the box to connect first-time with the knock-down and thump it past Ter Stegen and into the top corner. 3-1! Lovely goal.

Min 72 | Ooooh that's sexy stuff from Neymar, who flummoxes Javi López and Piatti with I believe is known in the business as an 'elástica'. It hasn't been the most memorable of games until a few minutes ago, but it's suddenly become a jink-fest, with Messi and Neymar at the centre of it. Diop appears to be OK, in the end.

Min 70 | Quique Sánchez Flores' face is thunder. Oscar Meleno comes on for Caicedo. Meanwhlile Diop has taken a knock and looks like he can't go on.

Min 68 | And now it's three! Messi is again in full-on jink mode, weaving his way into the box before the ball runs loose to the arriving Jordi Alba, who thumps it in low across Jiménez! 

Min 67 | Gooooal to Barça! Erm...where to start? Luis Suárez prods in for his second of the night, but that doesn't even tell half the story. First Iniesta skips past three men and feeds Messi, who proceeds to jink past four defenders to find himself one on one with Jiménez...who keeps out the Argentine's low shot but can't prevent Suárez from knocking in the rebound!

Min 66 | Caicedo scythes down Messi, and is probably grateful only to see a yellow card waved in his direction. Rafinha comes on, meanwhile, with Denis making way.

Min 62 | Rafhinha is getting ready to come on for Barcelona. While Messi and Suárez sit pretty at the top of the LaLiga scoring charts, by the way, Neymar is without a league goal since 2 October.

Min 60 | Espanyol have a free-kick in the left, and it's ripe for a delivery into the ol' mixer. It comes to zip, though, and before they know it Ter Stegen has hurled it out to Messi, whose long through ball to Neymar running through on Jiménez is only a shade beyond the Brazilian's reach, the sub keeper gratefully grabbing hold of the ball.

Min 59 | It's been all in Espanyol's half so far this period, but there's a chance for Los Pericos to break as a long ball is pumped forward for the right-wing run of Piatti... Ter Stegen is quick to dash out of his goal and knock it out, though.

Min 56 | Neymar it is who's on the attack again, but he pings his shot high, wide and handsome.

Min 54 | Neymar is the filling in an Espanyol-defender sandwich on the left wing, and Mateu Lahoz awards the hosts a free-kick. It's a moment of real peril for the away side, but Neymar steps up to deliver and massively overhits it.

Min 51 | There's a break in play here as Espanyol keeper Diego López has injured himself as he rushed out to narrow the angle for Luis Suárez. It looks to be his knee. He's replaced by Roberto Jiménez.  

Min 50 | Messi's involved again, as Neymar slips it into the forward to thread a ball through to Suárez's run into the box - but the ex-Liverpool man skews it wide of the near post! Two good chances for Barça to double their lead.

Min 49 | There's the first shooting opportunity of the second half, and it's Messi with it. The Argentine receives in the right-hand chanel, cuts inside across the box, wraps his left foot around the ball...but it's wide! We've seen him do it so many times before, but and we usually seem him find the corner. TV replays show that he slipped as he struck it, in his defence.

Min 47 | Espanyol have a little under 45 minutes to find an equaliser, or their unbeaten run in LaLiga is over.

Min 46 | No changes, for either side, incidentally.

Peeeep! The players are back out and Mr Mateu Lahoz delivers a blast on his whistle to get the second 45 up and running.

Barcelona 1-0 Espanyol: half-time summary

Luis Suárez's expertly-taken goal midway through the first period sees Barça head into the break 1-0 up, and as things stand they'll be reclaiming second spot from Sevilla and cutting Real Madrid's gap at the top to a provisional three points.

Barcelona 1-0 Espanyol: first half

Peeeep! One minute of added time, and the players are off for a cup of tea and a half-time orange.

Min 45 | Neymar nods it down to Suárez in the box, and the Uruguayan looks to take a touch past David López to carve out a yard with which to pull the trigger and surely put Barça 2-0 up - but López gets a foot in and it bounces out off Suárez.  

Min 41 | Iniesta is a joy to watch. He plays a neat little one-two with Suárez, skipping into the box to collect the return, but isn't quite able to bring it under his spell. 

Min 40 | Twice Barça almost find a way through, first when Iniesta feeds Suárez for the Uruguayan to slip it into Messi, who is crowded out, before Iniesta almost locates Messi in the box immediately after. The hosts then win a dangerous free-kick on the left after Javi López fouls Jordi Alba, but Espanyol deal with it.

Min 38 | Busquets is alright. 

Min 37 | And there's a shooting chance for the away side, but Javi López blazes over in a good position at the back of box. It's now Barça's turn to complain about having a man down, after a particularly robust challenge by Caicedo on Busquets in the build-up. He needs treatment on his ankle, and Ivan Rakitic trots out of the dugout to warm up just in case.

Min 35 | Espanyol had a decidedly dodgy few minutes after Suárez's strike, but appear to have settled back down a little.

Min 29 | Espanyol carve out their first forward foray of any significance since falling behind, and win a free-kick near the box, but Moreno's delivery is poor. David López colllides with Busquets as the ball comes in and is down as Barça break, Neymar skipping past Javi López in the box and cutting back for Messi to shoot across goal...but just wide! The visitors aren't best pleased Barça didn't put the ball out. 

Min 27 | Sergio Busquets almost finds Sergi Roberto's run to the back post with a sublime diagonal, but it's juuuust too long for the right-back.

Min 25 | It hits the wall and Espanyol clear. Los Pericos haven't had a kick since Barça took the lead.

Min 24 | Reyes brings down Luis Suárez just outside of the box, Messi stands over it...

Min 20 | That's Suárez's 11th LaLiga goal of the season, meaning he draws level with Messi at the top of the 'Pichichi' charts. The ideal way to celebrate his new contract.

Min 18 | Goooal! Luis Suárez! Barcelona hit Espanyol ruthlessly on the break, Iniesta picking out Suárez with a superb pass over the top, the forward collecting the pass beautifully and holding off Diego Reyes before finishing low past Diego López!

Min 16 | Aarón fizzes in a cross to the back stick for Espanyol, Gerardo Moreno rises...but heads well wide.

Min 13 | Aarón also sees yellow for Espanyol after a foul on Mr Messi.

Min 12 | Espanyol earn a second corner, but Gerard Piqué rises to head Piatti's delivery away. Iniesta then draws some well deserved oohs and aahs from the crowd for a lovely piece of control, before looking to feed it through to Suárez. It's a fairly straightforward one for the defence, and Suárez appeared offside anway.  

Min 10 | Espanyol's Pablo Piatti is the first man in the book, apparently for giving referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz a little too much lip.

Min 9 | Marc-André Ter Stegen is forced to concede a corner under pressure from Felipe Caicedo - but it comes to nothing for Espanyol.

Min 7 | Ufff! There's the first proper chance, and it falls to Leo Messi. Barça find their way out of Espanyol's high press and Luis Suárez is barrelling through the visiting defence, before feeding Neymar on the left. The Brazilan looks up and knocks it across to Messi, arriving at the far post...but the Argentinian can only find the side-netting! 

Min 4 | First sniff of an opening for Luis Suárez, Andrés Iniesta feeding the ball into the Uruguayan's run into the left-hand channel of the box - but David López is alive to sweep it away from the striker.

Min 1 | Can Espanyol end a their seven (nearly eight, actually)-year victory drought against their local rivals? Will Barcelona cut Real Madrid's gap at the top to three (provisionally)? We'll find out. 

Peeeeeep! We're underway!

One min to kick-off | Handshakes? Done. Team photos? Done. (It's actually a joint photo, with the players showing their support for a good cause.)  Coin toss? Done. Vamos!

Two mins to kick-off | The Barcelona anthem blares as the two sides make their out onto the Camp Nou pitch.

Five mins to kick-off | The teams are lining up in the tunnel - cue inter-team handshakes and backslapping.


Barcelona - Espanyol: confirmed line-ups

Barcelona XI: Ter Stegen, Roberto, Mascherano, Piqué, Alba, D. Suárez, Busquets, Iniesta, Messi, L. Suárez, Neymar

Espanyol XI: Diego López, Javi López, David López, Reyes, Aarón, Fuego, Diop, Jurado, Piatti, Moreno, Caicedo


Barcelona - Espanyol: latest news

20:33 | After being involved in some early season high-scoring affairs that doubtless had Sánchez Flores tearing out that lovely head of hair of his (most notably a bonkers 6-4 defeat to Sevilla in August), Espanyol's recent  form has in no small measure been down to a defence that has tightened right up. They've only conceded one in the last six in the league, while keeper Diego López went a club-record 586 minutes without conceding before his goal was breached against Gijón last Sunday.

20:27 | Incidentally, the kit lovers among you may well be keen to see this.

20:24 | And if you factor in all competitions, Espanyol's undefeated run is a mighty 10. Oh, and speaking of our preview - why not have a pre-match shufties?

20:23 | Espanyol's Supercopa de Catalunya win over Barça may not bear much influence on tonight's game, but their recent form surely will. As mentioned in our match preview below, Quique Sánchez Flores' men are on a nine-game unbeaten run and now find themselves knocking on the door of the European spots. Indeed, a surprise win tonight would move them up to seventh, ahead of Athletic Club's clash with Celta Vigo on Monday night.

20:12 | Here's the full story on tonight's team news.

19:48 | Three changes for Barcelona too, as Neymar returns from suspension to play in attack, while midfielder Denis Suárez is in for André Gomes and Javier Mascherano starts in defence in place of Samuel Umtiti. Ivan Rakitic is on the bench for the second straight league game.

19:43 | And the teams are in! Visitors Espanyol make three changes to the team that beat Sporting Gijón last weekend, with the injured trio of Víctor Sánchez, Leo Baptistao and Hernan Pérez making way for Javi López, Papa Diop and Pablo Piatti.

19:37 | They did beat (a far from full-strength) Barcelona in October's Supercopa de Catalunya, though. Will they take heart from that? Probably not.

19:33 | History certainly isn't on Espanyol's side, however. They've not beaten Barça in getting on for eight years (see 14:30) and in the last five LaLiga derbies at the Camp Nou have shipped 19 and scored just once - losing all five, obviously. 

19:22 | Recent history is on Suárez's side, though: he grabbed a brace in Barça's last LaLiga meeting with Espanyol, when they thumped Los Pericos 5-0 at the Camp Nou in May. 

19:18 | Luis Suárez will be out to celebrate his new contract with a goal or two against Barça's city rivals - but Los Azulgranas will be hoping he's got his eye back in after this less-than-stellar performance at a promotional event this week. 

19:07 | Barça can provisionally reduce Real Madrid's lead to three points, but begin this evening's game in third after Sevilla's 4-1 win over Málaga on Saturday - the Andalusians' fourth LaLiga victory in the last five.

19:04 | Andrés Iniesta, meanwhile, has made a real difference since returning from an injury lay-off, and the Spaniard is in line to make his first LaLiga start at the Camp Nou since way back in September.

19:00 | Having had to sit out Barcelona's two previous fixtures due to suspension, Neymar was involved in Wednesday's friendly in the Middle East, and is set to return in competitive action this evening.  

18:45 | Barcelona were away in Qatar in midweek, playing out a friendly with Saudi Arabian outfit Al-Ahli. Here's what happened.

18:15 | Two and a half hours to go to kick-off in tonight's Catalan derby: here's the lowdown on how and where to watch.

17:45 | Meanwhile, former Barça keeper Claudio Bravo is apparently eyeing a return to the club, telling "teammates" that he's had enough of Manchester City and quite fancies moving back to Catalunya.

17:15 | There is little love lost between Quique Sánchez Flores and Luis Enrique, who were teammates at Real Madrid back in the day. Quique also recently had words of praise for José Mourinho, which will endear him further to the Barça crowd this evening.

16:45 | Former Barcelona and Deportivo player Luis Suárez remains the only Spanish player to have been awarded the Ballon d'Or in any of its guises. Diario AS spoke to the 1960 winner about his his beginnings in football, a career which took him to Inter Milan, his relationship with Alfredo Di Stéfano, and his astonishment when after winning the treble with Milan and being crowned European champions with Spain in 1964, that year's Ballon d'Or went to Manchester United's Dennis Law.

16:00 | Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz will be the man in the middle at Camp Nou, the official receiving his 15 minutes of fame last season for sending off Diego Simeone after someone (it was blamed on a ball boy, apparently under instruction from Simeone) lobbed a spare ball onto the pitch during a Málaga attack in the Calderón.

15:30 | Meanwhile, Jérémy Mathieu is the only injury absentee in Enrique's squad ahead of tonight's game.

15:00 | There was no place for André Gomes in Luis Enrique's squad as the former Valencia man continues to adjust to life at his new club, and the small matter of dislodging a member of a midfield comprised of Andrés Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Ivan Rakitic.

14:30 | Espanyol have not won a Barcelona derby since 2009, when Mauricio Pochettino sealed his status at the club by masterminding a 2-1 win in Camp Nou just days after taking the reins at the Parakeets.

14:04 | The final whistle has just gone in Japan where Real Madrid are the new World Club Champions. It was by no means an easy ride for them though as they replace last year's winners Barcelona.

13:33 | Barça did some big spending in the summer but any reinforcements in January are unlikely it seems.

12:55 | Some images were leaked of Barça's strip for next season. New sponsor on board. 

12:20 | Looking to win a little extra Christmas cash? Probably best you avoid our predictions piece for this weekend's Liga fixtures, then. Just need a giggle? Click away.

11:48 | As news comes in that Benzema has given Madrid an early lead in the Club World Cup final, we remember that it was on this day five years ago that Barça won their second.   

11:26 | In reference to our earlier news, we can confirm that André Gomes will not cause a starting line-up decision for Luis Enrique. He's not in the matchday squad.

10:47 | Today Barcelona are looking to take advantage of Real Madrid galavanting across the world to close the gap at the top and add some pressure. Talking of which, the league leaders will be kicking off in the Club World Cup in just over half an hour and Robbie is already running with the live feed.

09:58 | Espanyol arrive at the Camp Nou in confident mood as no one, not even Atlético at the Calderón, have been able to beat them recently. Can they make it 10 unbeaten?

09:05 | No new injuries worries for Luis Enrique with his biggest decision likely to be whether to start with Rakitic or André Gomes.

08:28 | It's a cold morning in Barcelona - well, relatively speaking anyway - but it looks like it'll be dry all day as we look ahead to this evening's derby.

18:10 | As Real Madrid complain about the video technology, Luis Enrique takes the contrarian approach and says he agrees with the video ref! Eternal rivals.


Barcelona - Espanyol: match preview

In the last round of games before the winter break, Barcelona will try to take advantage of Real Madrid's trip to Japan in an effort to close the gap to three points at the summit of La Liga. Espanyol, on the other hand, have hit an excellent patch of form and will prove difficult customers in the Catalan Derby on Sunday night at 20:45 CET.

Espanyol have not beaten Barcelona since the heady days of Mauricio Pochettino's spell as manager of the club back in 2009 but they are inclined to run Barcelona close when the mood catches them right. They alsmost messed up Barca's ultimately victorious title challenge last season when they held them to a 0-0 draw at the start of 2016 in what was a heated affair. 

They have played each other 194 times with Barcelona winning 94 of those encounters and Espanyol claiming victory in just 34. Espanyol lie just three points outside of a European place and a victory, or draw, would put them in an excellent position heading towards the end of the year.

Barcelona

Luis Enrique will be able to call upon his top three attackers for the first time since El Clásico in the league due to Neymar's suspension for the last game. He returns on Sunday after playing in Barcelona's friendly victory over Al-Ahli in Qatar during the week.

Luis Suarez will also be in confident mood having secured a contract extension with the club until 2022 - Barcelona also placed a €200 million release clause in the contract in case the Uruguyuan was questioning his worth to the club.

Jeremy Mathieu is Enrique's only absence through injury but with Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano and Samuel Umtiti to call on, this won't be too much of an issue. Andre Gomes looks poised to continue in place of Ivan Rakitic while Iniesta and Busquets will also likely take up the remaining spots in Barca's midfield.

Espanyol

Espanyol are unbeaten in nine games with their last loss coming at the hands of Celta Vigo back in September after what can only be described as a shaky start. They lost three, drew two and won only one of Sanchez Flores' first six games in charge but the Espanyol board stuck with their man and have started to reap the rewards of their long term outlook.

They ground out a result against Atlético at the Vicente Calderon two weeks ago before beating Sporting Gijon in their most recent fixture. Espanyol centre-back knows the feeling is right within their squad to go to the Camp Nou and challenge their rivals. "It's been a long time since we last beat them but now is a good time because the team has realised we're capable of great things," Lopez said. "We're on form and feeling confident and we need to take advantage of that."


Barcelona - Espanyol: possible line-ups

Barcelona: Ter Stegen, Alba, Pique, Mascherano, Roberto, Busquets, Iniesta, Gomes, Messi, Suarez, Neymar

Espanyol: Diego Lopez; Martin, Reyes, Sanchez, David Lopez; Gullon, Fuego, Baptistao, Jurado; Gerard, Caicedo

Barcelona - Espanyol: match build up