Derbi Barceloní win sees Barça crowned as LaLiga champions

With a staggering 51 points separating the two sides – the most significant aperture approaching the commencement of a Derbi Barceloní this century – Barcelona headed into the match as unsurprisingly hotly-fancied pre-match favourites, knowing a victory would be enough to lift their first league title since the 2018-2019 campaign. However, at the opposite end of the standings, RCD Espanyol de Barcelona are currently fighting for their lives, as Luis García’s side remain four points adrift from safety with only five matches left to play this season – seeking to avoid plying their trade in the second-tier of Spanish football for the first time in three years. 

Without a victory in a demoralising 25-match head-to-head top-flight derby sequence, dating back to their 2-1 success in February 2009, Espanyol manager García welcomed former Barcelona striker Martin Braithwaite back into Los Periquitos’ starting XI. Meanwhile, following their narrow 1-0 victory over Osasuna on 2nd May, Xavi entrusted the players that emerged victorious at the beginning of the month.

ESP: Pacheco; Montes, Cabrera, Gil, Oliván, Gómez; Melamed, Darder, Suárez; Braithwaite, Joselu

BAR: Stegen; Koundé, Araújo, Christensen, Balde; Busquets, de Jong, Pedri; Raphinha, Gavi, Lewandowski

Victorious in a La Liga-high 26 matches throughout the current campaign, an unrelenting Barcelona outfit flew out of the traps, and were almost ahead in the 6th minute. However, academy graduate Gavi could only direct his one-on-one effort wide of the target. Nonetheless, Robert Lewandowski ​​inconspicuously arrived at the back post to fire home Alejandro Balde’s delicious delivery across the face of the goal just five minutes later.

With an early eye on reopening the Blaugrana’s trophy cabinet, Barcelona mercilessly struck again nine minutes later, as this time Balde turned goalscorer. Pedri’s dazzling piece of skill on the edge of the penalty area allowed the marauding forward left-back the simplest of tasks, clinically slamming the ball home for his maiden goal in La Liga. Espanyol were left indebted to their final line of defence in the 25th minute as Fernando Pacheco denied Lewandowski his second of the evening with a sublime save.

However, there was no stopping the league’s top goalscorer from increasing his already enterprising tally to 21 goals just five minutes before half-time – as in a carbon copy of his first strike, the predatory Polish poacher once again made a darting run into the box to fire Raphinha’s cross into an empty net.

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With damage limitation now the aim of the game for Espanyol, Martin Braithwaite spurned a glorious opportunity to get his side back to within two goals as the striker hesitated for too long on the ball – subsequently allowing Marc-André ter Stegen to produce the save.

Clearly unimpressed with his side’s performance in the first half, Espanyol manager Luis García threw Javi Puado and Fernando Calero into the fray during the half-time interval. However, Barcelona struck again in front of goal in the 53rd minute as central defender Jules Koundé headed home Frenkie de Jong’s exquisitely-lofted defence-splitting pass beyond the now even more visibly frustrated figure of Pacheco. With their night’s work completed, Raphinha and Ronald Araújo left the field shortly after the hour-mark, as Ousmane Dembélé and Jordi Alba came on to take their respective places.

Determined to at the very least get their name onto the scoresheet, Espanyol finally managed to do so in the 73rd minute, as substitute Puado instinctively exploited the offside trap before sublimely lifting the ball over the head of the onrushing Ter Stegen. Los Periquitos pulled another goal back deep into second-half injury time, as top-scorer Joselu pounced to slot the ball home from close range for his 15th league goal of the season after ​​Fernando Calero’s header rebounded back off the left-hand post.

Nonetheless, all the cameras were left to focus on Barcelona’s players at the sound of referee Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea’s full-time whistle as the party celebrating their La Liga title success began to get underway. Meanwhile, at the other end of the standings, Espanyol remain languishing in 19th position, as García begins his preparations ahead of a must-win trip to the Estadio de Vallecas against upcoming hosts Rayo Vallecano in a week’s time.

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