Barcelona coach Luis Enrique praised the workrate of Espanyol’s defence as his side were held to a 0-0 draw by their neighbours on Saturday.
The attacking trio of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez led Barca to five trophies in 2015, scoring 137 of their Spanish record 180 goals in all competitions, but they drew a blank against Espanyol.
“It is difficult to play against a side that gives everything,” Luis Enrique told a news conference. “We were expecting a game like this and they played very well.
“They pressured a lot and it was difficult for us to get going at the start as the opposition were on their game.
“We did well at the beginning of the second half, it was vital to create chances so that we could control the game and we had some clear openings which we didn’t convert,” added Luis Enrique.
“Defensively they were superior to us in workrate and were at a very high level. They did drop it later as the game went on because it is impossible to maintain that throughout the match.”
Barca went close with a Messi free kick and a Suarez shot that both hit the woodwork and the draw means Atletico Madrid can go above them if they beat Levante later on Saturday.
The Catalan side have 39 points, one more than Atletico with 17 games played, while third-placed Real Madrid have 36 points and face Valencia on Sunday.
Barca’s next match is against Espanyol in the first leg of the King’s Cup last 16 on Wednesday.
“This game sets the standard for the next two in the cup and we will try and play with a greater intensity than them,” said Luis Enrique.
There were a lot of free kicks conceded by Espanyol in the first half but Barca’s coach refused to be critical.
“They were physical but there is nothing to object about,” he said.