Camp Nou, Barcelona
Saturday, February 23, 9pm GMT
FC Barcelona will host Sevilla in matchday 25 of La Liga. While the match in itself isn’t of particularly great importance for the Catalans given their extremely comfortable lead at the top, it is important to get the team’s morale back up after the midweek debacle at the San Siro, which might very well put an end to Barcelona’s Champions League hopes. It is crucial for the team to recover before the second leg in two weeks.
Sevilla, on the other hand, are far from their best times. They are in no danger of relegation but they’re not competing for Europe either and they haven’t been able to offer much resistance to the top sides this season either, although they did come close to upset Barca at the Sanchez Pijuan.
Team News and Tactical Brief
In just one week, the mood has completely changed at Camp Nou. Only a few days ago, hopes were high that the club could be headed towards another continental double, but they had quite the reality check at the San Siro; a dispirited performance in which the team completely lacked ideas to penetrate the Milan defense saw Jordi Roura’s outfit leave Italy with a 2-0 deficit to recover in the second leg. While that obviously has little effect over their La Liga campaign, the players’ confidence needs to be recovered for the second leg against Milan and that can only be acheived through victories and quality performances.
Jordi Roura has been accused by some blaugrana supporters of lacking ideas in midweek and he will want to redeem
himself, starting with this match. It is unclear whether he will field roughly the same lineup or rest some key players here; Valdés should start as usual, as should Alba and Alves. Puyol might get a rest given his age and how slow he looked at San Siro, with Mascherano taking his place alongside Piqué. In the middle of the park, Busquets should start, while Thiago might replace one of Xavi or Fabregas, probably the latter. Up front, Messi and Iniesta starting is almost a given, while either Pedro or Villa should be the third man.
Barcelona will be looking to start strong and suffocate Sevilla from the start. They know that if they don’t score early, some anxiety might start to build in after what happened in midweek. The Camp Nou crowd will have to help the team overcome this situation and lead them to victory again.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Victor Valdés; Jordi Alba, Javier Mascherano, Gerard Piqué, Daniel Alves; Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez, Thiago Alcantara; Pedro Rodriguez, Andrés Iniesta and Lionel Messi.
Sevilla are not having a good season at all, and things haven’t improved much with the appointment of Unai Emery. The Andalucian’s main goal at the moment is to defeat Atlético Madrid in the Copa semis to make it to the final against Barcelona and Real Madrid: it’s what the supporters and everyone at the club most wishes right now. Unai Emery even said in jest that if he had any guarantee that by fielding a weakened side at Camp Nou Sevilla would reach the Copa final, he would do it.
But there are obviously no such guarantees so Emery will take this match as seriously as possible, knowing that a positive result at Camp Nou could only increase the team’s confidence going forward and that this might be a good time to upset Barcelona while they’re still a bit shaken from their result against Milan. Emery has never managed to beat Barcelona in all his years at Valencia, but he did usually get at least a draw every season, using some interesting strategies to stop the Catalans. He should however use a more traditional 4-2-3-1 this weekend, especially since he hasn’t really had much time at Sevilla yet.
Beto is likely to start in goal, with Coke, Fazio, Sphaic and Moreno ahead of him. Medel and Kondogbia will shield the backline, with Navas, Rakitic and Reyes behind the sole striker Alvaro Negredo. Closing down spaces will be the number one priority, with everyone except Negredo tracking back when Barcelona have the ball. The pace of Navas and Reyes and Negredo’s finishing ability will be Sevilla’s best bets to get goal on the counterattack.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Beto; Coke, Fazio, Sphaic, Moreno; Medel, Kondogbia; Navas, Rakitic, Reyes; Negredo
Key Match Facts
- Unai Emery has never beaten Barcelona.
- Last season’s match ended 0-0, after a memorable performance from Javi Varas.
- The Sanchez Pijuan match ended 3-2 for Barcelona, from 0-2 down.
Player to Watch Out For
Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)
Sevilla is one of Messi’s favorite victims in Spain, with 14 goals over the years against the Andalucians, and he will be looking forward to bounce back from a poor (for his standards) performance at San Siro, so you’d have to be a bold man to bet against the world’s best player scoring and having a great performance here.
FC Barcelona 3-0 Sevilla CF
FC Barcelona will have too much for Unai Emery’s side, with Messi finding the net twice and Pedro once. They will quickly redeem themselves of the Milan defeat.