Philippe Coutinho made his debut for his new club, coming on for Andres Iniesta in the 68th minute, while Messi’s 25th-minute strike was Barca’s 4,000th goal at their illustrious stadium.
Prior to kickoff, the Barcelona faithful said their goodbyes to midfielder Javier Mascherano, who is leaving the club to join Chinese Super League outfit Hebei China Fortune on Friday.
The hosts began brightly and were off the mark after just nine minutes as Aleix Vidal’s incisive pass from just inside the Espanyol box was drilled home at point-blank range by Suarez.
However, Espanyol then fell behind in the tie in the 25th minute thanks to Messi’s left-footed strike from the right, which deflected off Naldo en route to the back of the net.
By half time, Barca must have wondered how they were not out of reach given a glut of gilt-edged chances that came their way, but Suarez and Messi failed to add to their earlier strikes.
The second half saw the hosts take their foot off the pedal somewhat but the visitors remained second best and failed to muster up any significant chances.
Coutinho was introduced midway through the second half to an ovation from the Barca fans and the Brazilian nearly claimed an assist on 75 minutes in squaring the ball to Suarez, who fired straight at the goalkeeper.
Despite the Blaugrana’s slender lead, which would have been nullified with an Espanyol away goal, the final whistle blew on an ultimately comfortable evening for Valverde and his men.