RCD Espanyol 0 - FC Barcelona 1
When it seemed that we could start talking about the football once again, today’s headlines are focused upon a controversy that could see last nights result overturned. Espanyol are claiming that Barcelona made an illegal team selection in their decision to play Xavi and Puyol in the first leg of the Spanish Supercup.
Espanyol are considering an appeal based upon the FiFA regulation that stipulates any player withdrawn from his national team’s squad as a result of injury may not play for his club side in the five days following the international fixture. Xavi and Puyol were both withdrawn from the Spanish squad that played Iceland on Tuesday after Barcelona submitted medical certification claiming that the players were injured.
Espanyol are expected to announce later today what action they intend to take.
The two sides are separated by Ludovic Giuly’s 43rd minute goal ahead of Sunday’s return leg at the Camp Nou. Giuly, omitted from the French world cup squad, finished clinically after receiving an excellent pass from Ronaldinho.
Espanyol will take great comfort from their first half performance. Valverde’s tactics ensured that his side applied enough pressure on the Barcelona midfield to prevent Deco and Xavi from getting the ball to their talented colleagues in attack. Espanyol also pressurised Marquez throughout which forced Barcelona’s first pass to originate with Carles Puyol who is noticeably less assured in possession than his defensive partner.
Only once fatigue set in were Barcelona given the freedom by Espanyol to begin showing signs of the devastating possession football of which they have become renowned. Many clubs will have been watching Espanyol’s tactics last night and Barcelona can expect more of the same from the majority of their opponents throughout the coming season. It will be interesting to see how Rijkaard adapts and whether or not they are willing to experiment with the 4-3-3 formation that has brought them so much success over the last two seasons.
Zambrotta made a late appearance as substitute and immediately showed signs of how important a player he will be for Barcelona this season; providing excellent cover in defence and a willingness to get forward and support the attack at every opportunity.
A difficult morning ahead then for Barcelona fans who may have trouble taking a taxi this morning and for Espanyol’s new signing Jonatas as he explains yesterday’s comments to his new employers. The Brazilian, upon his arrival at Barcelona airport yesterday told reporters that “I hope Barcelona win the Supercup”. It seems someone needs to explain to the poor guy which of the city’s two clubs he has actually signed for.