Messi Benched, Coutinho To Start, In Barcelona's Catalan Derby With Espanyol

Messi Benched, Coutinho To Start, In Barcelona's Catalan Derby With Espanyol

Messi Benched, Coutinho To Start, In Barcelona's Catalan Derby With Espanyol

Gerard Pique says telling Espanyol fans to be quiet was the least he could do after saving Barcelona's unbeaten league run with a late equaliser at Cornella-El Prat on Sunday.

The centre-back made headlines after a recent Copa del Rey success against Espanyol by referring to the club multiple times as "Espanyol de Cornella" - a suburb of the Barcelona metropolitan area - rather than Espanyol de Barcelona.

Espanyol moved to their new stadium in the town near Barcelona in 2009 after previously playing at the Olympic Stadium in Catalonia's capital.

Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta defended team-mate Gerard Pique after the defender again courted controversy against Catalan rivals Espanyol.

There were heated scenes after the full-time whistle too as Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti clashed with Espanyol's Sergio Garcia.

"Celebrating the goal was special after everything that's happened in the last week", added Pique.

"It means we're on a good run, although with regards to how I feel right now it doesn't tell me anything". I know it hurt them and I used sarcasm to annoy them.

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"They complain about that and report me, but they don't investigate insults towards my family".

Pique prompted an Espanyol complaint to the Spanish Football Federation after the first leg of that tie following comments he made disputing the clubs' rivalry over the location of Espanyol's stadium.

Espanyol had ended Barcelona's 29-match unbeaten streak with a 1-0 victory in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals on January 17, when Messi missed a penalty kick.

Ernesto Valverde opted to make changes to his squad and left Lionel Messi on the bench with Paco Alcacer coming into the starting lineup.

In torrid conditions, with the rain pouring down throughout the 90 minutes and puddles forming all over the pitch, Barcelona looked set to see their unbeaten league record taken by Espanyol, who had ended their 29-game unbeaten streak in all competitions last month.

Espanyol, meanwhile, stay 15th, eight points clear of the relegation zone.

Valverde's opposite number Quique Sanchez Flores, meanwhile, believes Pique's celebration would not quieten the vociferous home support. "We have had better performances but this draw is good considering the size of the opponent".

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