The Blaugranas conceded an early goal to Sevilla before staging a comeback to secure the whole three points
The hosts, under the tutelage of Jorge Sampaoli, have been one of Spain’s most enthralling sides in this campaign, and they proved it again at the weekend with a spirited performance against the defending champions.
But ultimately, four time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi turned out to be the difference-maker, even though Sevilla dominated for large parts of the first 45 minutes.
Sampaoli’s men started on the front-foot, and scored through a lighting quick counter through Vitolo after a fantastic pass from Pablo Sanabria played the forward on, through to goal. The hosts looked in complete control, thanks to their high-pressing ever since they took the lead, and it seemed Barcelona could be heading to yet another poor result.
However, Lionel Messi scored with a stunning first-time finish from outside the box after instigating the move, to equalize in the 43rd minute. Barcelona went into half-time at 1-1, but the performance in the first 45 mins left a lot to be desired.
These are the situations where managers earn their money, and Luis Enrique showed his tactical acumen at the half-time break.
There was a marked improvement in Barcelona’s play in the second half, with more crisp and incisive buildup and better co-ordinated pressing to win the ball back. The Spanish giants look the lead, this time through Luis Suarez after yet another piece of magic from Lionel Messi.
Suarez won the ball in the middle third and laid it off to Messi, who then went on a mazy run through Sevilla’s midfield. The Argentine then passed it back to Suarez in the penalty box and then the striker did the rest to finish with aplomb.
Barcelona managed to hold on to the scoreline, and eventually ran out winners. Luis Enrique, expressing his post-match thoughts, revealed the tactical switch which resulted in Barcelona’s response in the second half.
“We changed the shape at half-time, pushing Sergi Roberto into midfield and that allowed us to generate more superiority in midfield,” Barcelona’s boss explained.
“Sometimes it was Sergi Roberto in there, other times it was [Samuel] Umtiti, depending on what benefited us best at the time. But that’s how we were able to find Leo Messi more and create more chances.”
The coach also lamented the missed chances by MSN, which usually doesn’t happen often, insisting they could have killed the game off much earlier. However, Enrique praised their opponents for their high pressing game which did affect Barcelona’s buildup vastly in the first half.
On an ending note, the manager reserved some plaudits for Denis Suarez, who had a good game on Sunday, stating, “I’d like to highlight Denis Suarez. Every time he’s had a chance he’s taken advantage by performing well.”
“It’s difficult to perform when you’re not starting regularly, but Denis is managing to do that. With that attitude, when you see what he’s doing, you have to congratulate him and hold him up as an example of what a good professional is.”