What an exceptional second half display by Barcelona, and more specifically Messi. Espanyol didn't play that poorly, but their city rivals hit top gear after the interval. There was nothing they could do to stop them. Barca have put down a marker in the Liga title race with this display.
- 2nd Half
- 1st Half
FC Barcelona - RCD Espanyol
Liga - 18 December 2016
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- End of 2nd Half
FULL TIME: Barcelona 4-1 Espanyol.
NEYMAR IS DENIED! Messi dribbles towards the Espanyol penalty area once again, this time slipping the pass to Neymar. But the Brazilian has his shot saved by Roberto.
Ronaldo might have lifted the 2016 Ballon d'Or last week, but there's nobody on planet earth like Messi when he is in this form. A quite remarkable performance from the Argentine.
Five minutes of stoppage time to be played at the end of the match.
- GoalLionel MessiFC Barcelona
GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL! Barcelona 4 (90 mins - Lionel Messi) Espanyol 1. He has his goal! 90 minutes have just ticked over and Messi has the goal his performance deserves. The Argentine flicks home a nonchalent finish on the volley.
That goal from Lopez has given Espanyol some fresh energy. They have lingering belief that they can get something from this game. They're going to make a go of it, anyway.
PAST THE FAR POST! That was just cruel. Messi stops and stars as he toys with the Espanyol defenders, but he drags his shot wide of the far post when he finally takes aim.
This isn't the first time this season that changes made by Lucho have disrupted the flow of Barcelona. There's no doubt that they have lost their way since the couple of substitutons.
Espanyol are now enjoying a decent spell of possession, with Reyes slinging floated balls into the Barcelona box. Although Pique and Umtiti are dealing with them rather easily.
That was Alba's first goal for Barcelona in 60 appearances. It was last November that the left back last found the net for his club side. You could say that goal had been coming.
- OffPablo PiattiRCD Espanyol
- OnJosé Antonio ReyesRCD Espanyol
Piatti comes off for Espanyol. He played a decent game, although he could have created more.
Lopez is a local boy and so that goal in the derby at the Camp Nou will mean a lot to him, even if it doesn't mean a great deal to his team. He took it really well. What a finish.
- GoalDavid LópezRCD Espanyol
GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL! Barcelona 3 Espanyol 1 (79 mins - David Lopez). Espanyol have a goal back! A long ball is cushioned down for Lopez to stride on to, lashing a left footed finish past Ter Stegen to give the away team something to cling to.
This win will reduce the gap on Real Madrid at the top of La Liga, although they were away on Club World Cup duty this week. So they have a game in hand to play when they come back.
This game died as a contest as soon as those second and third goals went in. This is now a case of playing for pride as far as Espanyol are concerned. Damage limitation.
- OffSergio BusquetsFC Barcelona
- OnSamuel UmtitiFC Barcelona
Off comes Busquets and on comes Umtiti, which means Mascherano will now move into midfield.
Ouch! That's a sore one. Piatti and Alba slide for the same loose ball, with the two players catching each other on the knee. They are both down on the turf receiving some treatment.
That is the ability of Messil, the greatest player in his generation. Espanyol stood a chance of getting back into this match, but in the space of just a few minutes it was over.
- OffFelipe CaicedoRCD Espanyol
- OnOscar MelendoRCD Espanyol
Caicedo comes off for Espanyol. They are playing purely for pride now.
This could be a concern for Espanyol. Diop is down on the ground and it looks like the midfielder will have to come off for the away team. Flores is going to have to make his final change.
So that should be that for Barcelona. They have a three-goal advantage and with that they surely have all three points secured. This match changed in the space of just a few minutes.
This is turning into a Messi masterclass now. It's difficult to do it justice in words, but both of those goals were the result of the Argentine's incredible dribbling abilities.
- GoalJordi AlbaFC Barcelona
GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL! Barcelona 3 (68 mins - Jordi Alba) Espanyol 0. Another sensational goal! Messi once again beats about four players, then plays it out to Alba who finishes low into the far corner of the Espanyol net. Wow!
- GoalLuis SuárezFC Barcelona
GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL! Barcelona 2 (67 mins - Luis Suarez) Espanyol 0. Barcelona have their second goal of the game! Sensational dribbling skill from Messi sets up the rebound shot for Suarez, who made no mistake finishing.
- OffDenis SuárezFC Barcelona
- OnRafinhaFC Barcelona
There's the first change from Barcelona, and it's Denis who comes off. Not the best performance.
- Yellow cardFelipe CaicedoRCD Espanyol
That's an easy decision for the referee. Caicedo was late with that tackle. Into the book he goes.
Iniesta isn't just a playmaker, he's apparently a ball winner as well. He tracked Piatti all the way to the edge of the box and makes an exceptional tackle to win possession back.
There is a sense that Espanyol are starting to build something here. They have managed this game very well. They must show more attacking intent, though.
So close! Neymar surged towards the Espanyol penalty area and came within inches of squeezing a pass through to Suarez, but the defender stepped out just in time to make the interception.
Right on cue, Ter Stegen is at fault for playing the ball straight out play. He was trying a little too much with an audacious pass out to the left back position. It didn't work out too well.
For all that Espanyol have shown some glimpses of what they can do, they have yet to really trouble Ter Stegen. In fact, I can't recall the Barcelona keeper making a single save.
Espanyol are still in this match. They have lost their goalkepeer, but they haven't folded as so many teams would after losing the opening goal. They remain a threat to Barcelona.
That's a disappointing delivery by Neymar. He wanted to put the freekick on top of the goalkeeper to place him under pressure, but in the end he drifted it straight out of play.
That was quite a lengthy stoppage and so there will surely be some amount of added time at the end of the match. It also seems to have disrupted the flow of the match as a contest.
- OffDiego LópezRCD Espanyol
- OnRobertoRCD Espanyol
There's the change from Espanyol and Roberto Jimenez comes on to replace the injured Lopez.
Indeed, Lopez is going to have come off for Espanyol, which is a shame because he is an excellent goalkeeper who had been playing well tonight.
The pass from Messi to create that goalscoring opportunity for Suarez was quite sensational. He took three players out of the game but playing the ball in behind the defence.
This isn't looking so positive for Lopez. He took some studs to the knee as he made that save from Suarez. It looks like the Espanyol goalkeeper will have to come off for the visitors.
LOPEZ MAKES THE SAVE! Suarez was played through by Messi, but from a tight angle Lopez made the save to deny Barcelona a second goal. That was a crucial save from the keeper.
MESSI SHOOTS WIDE! The Barcelona number 10 cuts inside the off the right wing and curls a shot towards the Espanyol target, but he slips as he hits it and sends his effort wide.
Suarez's goal was the difference between the two rivals in the first half. Barcelona have had the better of the match, but Espanyol have shown enough to suggest they can get back in this.
- 2nd Half
The second half is under way at the Camp Nou! Barcelona have a 1-0 lead over Espanyol.
What did you make of the first half at the Camp Nou? Just how much better are Barcelona with Iniesta back in the team? Can Espanyol still claim something? Tweet me!
- End of 1st Half
HALF TIME: Barcelona 1-0 Espanyol. It has been a fairly even half between the two city rivals, but the difference has been provided by Iniesta and Suarez. They have been the standout performers.
Just one minute of stoppage time to be played at the end of the first half.
Iniesta and Suarez are linking up so well. Everything Barcelona have done well in this first half has come through those two. Exceptional understanding between the two players.
Some of the tackles that are coming in now are somewhat tasty. I suspect the referee will need to intervene at some point soon so this doesn't escalate into the downright dirty.
Pick the bones out of that one. First Denis was taken out on the edge of the penalty area, then Suarez was taken out inside the box. Barcelona have their claims waved away, though.
BUSQUETS INJURY CONCERN! The midfielder is down on the turf after taking a crunching challenge from Diop, but it looks like he is set to continue, much to Lucho's relief.
GERARD SHOOTS OVER! Espanyol work the ball out to the right wing, where Gerard has found some space inside the penalty area, but he lashes his effort well over the target.
Having said that, Espanyol are enjoying a lot of success down the right side, making the most of the space in behind Alba. That could be where they find a breakthrough against their rivals.
Roberto is being treated as the weak link for Barcelona tonight. That has become a common theme this season. Opposition sides go after the right back. They believe they can get at him.
Just when it looked like Barcelona were going to take control of this match Espanyol play a few passes of their own, as if to say they're not going to disappear that easily.
Iniesta picks out Suarez with another exceptional long range pass over the top. That has been a very effective route for Barcelona so far in this game. More of that to come, I would think.
Barcelona are now looking to suffocate this game. They are passing the ball around, aiming to tire out Espanyol. But the away team aren't engaging in much pressing play.
Indeed, if the referee had seen that from Busquets he surely would have been sent off. There was a very deliberate movement to push his hand into the face of Lopez. Dirty.
Espanyol are unhappy with the referee for not spotting Busquets sticking his hand into the face of Lopez as the away team took a freekick. That was foolish from the Barca midfielder.
PAST THE FAR POST! Barcelona came forward on the rapid counter attack, making the most of an Espanyol slip, but Messi shoots wide of the far post after good work by Neymar.
Barcelona have yet to lose after taking the lead in a game this season. So that doesn't bode so well for Espanyol, who now have a tough task to get back into this match.
Of course, Real Madrid have been away at the Club World Cup this week and so this is a chance for Barcelona to apply some pressure on their rivals at the top of the Liga table.
Barcelona shouldn't count out Espanyol just yet. They have real quality within their ranks and they also have confidence after their recent run of results. They remain a danger.
As I was saying earlier, Barcelona have really missed Iniesta at times this season. He is the one who can spring an attack from defence in the blink of an eye, just as he did there.
That goal came at a time when Espanyol were probably looking at their most comfortable. They seemed to have Barca at arm's length, but that just shows how dangerous they can be.
Everything about that goal was excellent. The pass from Iniesta was sensational, picking out the run of Suarez from within his own half. The touch from Suarez to take it down was great as well.
- GoalLuis SuárezFC Barcelona
GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL! Barcelona 1 (19 mins - Luis Suarez) Espanyol 0. Barcelona have the lead in the derby! Iniesta's long pass is taken into the stride of Suarez, with the former Liverpool striker poking a finish past Lopez in the Espanyol goal.
The away side are carrying some real threat on the counter attack. Piatti is the one who came away with the ball this time, but between Mascherano and Iniesta Barca dealt with him.
After a fairly attacking start to the match Espanyol have slipped deeper into their own half, plugging the gaps and making sure Barcelona don't find any space in behind them.
Indeed, Messi doesn't have the flash on blonde hair anymore to distinguish him from the rest on the Camp Nou pitch. Although there's some other ways he can do that.
- Yellow cardAaron MartínRCD Espanyol
And there's another yellow card for an Espanyol player, with Iniesta dumped on the ground.
Iniesta is starting to take control of this match. Barcelona have missed him in recent weeks. They're a different team with him in the starting lineup. Pulling the strings tonight.
- Yellow cardPablo PiattiRCD Espanyol
First yellow card goes to Piatti. The Espanyol playmaker probably deserved that.
In addition to the point that this could be claimed as Barcelona's strongest possible team, some might say Umtiti should be playing over Mascherano. That's about it, though.
Messi really should have scored there. It was on his right foot and he was stretching ever so slightly to make the connection, but he certainly should have found the target.
MESSI MISS! Great surging counter attack sees Barcelona in a three-on-three situation, with Neymar feeding the ball to Messi at the back post, but he could only find the side netting.
This has been a fairly even game in the early exchanges. Barcelona are playing the shorter, more direct passes, while Espanyol are looking to move the ball into space in behind.
Espanyol tend to give Barcelona a difficult game, but they have won their last 14 games against their city rivals. Can they break that run this evening? They have a good chance.
There's a case to be made that this is Barcelona's strongest side. Denis has been favoured to Rakitic, but the Croatian hasn't been in the greatest of form so far this season.
Flores has done a realy good job with Espanyol this season. He has made them one of the toughest teams in Spain to break down. They have seven clean sheets from their last nine games.
This could be a really tough one for Barcelona. Espanyol come into this game in some really good form. They will make it tough for their city rivals, even at the Camp Nou.
- 1st Half
The match is under way at the Camp Nou! It's Barcelona against Espanyol.
TEAM NEWS: Barcelona - Ter Stegen, Pique, Sergio, Denis, Iniesta, Suarez, Messi, Neymar, Mascherano, Alba, Roberto. /// Espanyol - Lopez, Lopez, Martin, Fuego, Lopez, Reyes, Piatti, Diop, Moreno, Caicedo, Jurado.
I'm Graham Ruthven and you can catch me on Twitter ahead of the match to let me know your thoughts. Is this a must win match for Barcelona tonight? Tweet me!
Good evening and welcome to Eurosport's LIVE coverage of the Spanish Liga clash between Barcelona and Espanyol. We'll bring you all the action and goals from the Camp Nou. Kick-off: 19.45.