Barcelona will continue the defence of their Copa del Rey crown when they meet Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in a rematch of last year’s final.
The Copa del Rey continues this week, with the last eight sides left in Spain’s premier cup competition. And, the marquee fixture of the round will be a revisit to last year’s final, with Sevilla playing hosts to holders Barcelona in the first leg at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium on Wednesday night.
Sevilla reached the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey by the skin of their teeth, narrowly beating Athletic Bilbao 3-2 in the Round of 16, with the Basque side winning the first leg. Their overall form is starting to become a major concern, with the 2-0 loss to Real Madrid last weekend being the third successive time they have failed to take anything from a game.
Barcelona, on the other hand, had to come from behind before beating Levante quite comfortably in the second leg last week. The Granotas though, are still hoping to get the Copa del Rey holders eliminated from the competition for allegedly fielding Chumi illegally in the first leg. But, for now, the first leg will take place as planned.
Last season’s finalists have already locked horns twice this season, with Barcelona getting the better of Sevilla on each occasion. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides in Spanish football history, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the Copa del Rey encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Pablo Machin only has a few niggling issues hampering his preparations for the visit of Barcelona. On Wednesday, the Sevilla boss could be without as many as three first-team players, with Nolito (leg) and Maxime Gonalons (ankle) being certain absentees.
As for the short-term, Machin will be sweating over the fitness of former Barcelona man Munir El Haddadi, who missed training on Tuesday, and is likely to miss out on a quick reunion with the club he left this month. In his absence, the Sevilla manager should retain the strike partnership of Andre Silva and Wissam Ben Yedder.
Behind the front two though, Machin is likely to make some rotations to the side that proved to be unsuccessful against Real Madrid. The changes ought to start right at the back, with Juan Soriano taking his customary place in goal for a Copa del Rey fixture.
Despite calls for a shuffle in system, Machin should stick to his tried and tested 3-5-2 formation, with Gabriel Mercado, Daniel Carrico and Joris Gnagnon manning the backline. The wing-back slots should be taken up by Jesus Navas and Quincy Promes, with the duo’s attacking output in particular, holding the key.
The Sevilla boss also has plenty of options at his disposal, as far as the three midfield slots are concerned. Ibrahim Amadou seems to be the go-to man to shore up the defensive aspect in the middle of the park, which should see Pablo Sarabia and Franco Vazquez being the chief creators for the hosts.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): Soriano; Mercado, Carrico, Gnagnon; Navas, Sarabia, Amadou, Vazquez, Promes; Ben Yedder, Silva
Ernesto Valverde has a fresh injury concern to contend with, with Ousmane Dembele sustaining an ankle injury during the win over Leganes last weekend. The short-term layoff comes as a bitter blow for the Frenchman, who was starting to come into his own, and will now be itching to make a swift return to the pitch.
In addition to Dembele, Barcelona are also without Samuel Umtiti and Rafinha, while Valencia loanee Jeison Murillo is suspended after accumulating three yellow cards in the competition. Valverde has also chosen to rest Lionel Messi, despite leaving him on the bench against Leganes.
The forced and enforced absences mean that some of the selections by the Barcelona manager become easy to guess. While Kevin-Prince Boateng, who was unveiled on Tuesday following his loan move from Sassuolo, is part of the travelling squad, Malcom is likely to replace Dembele, with the January signing becoming an option on the bench.
At the back, Valverde is likely to reunite Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet as the central defensive partnership, as he continues to manage Thomas Vermaelen following his return from injury. Jordi Alba is a certain starter on the left side of the Barcelona defence, while Nelson Semedo should return on the opposite flank.
The full-backs will be pivotal in driving Barcelona forward against a vulnerable Sevilla defence, while Pique will need to continue his strong recent form to ensure a positive result on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Valverde has rested Sergio Busquets as well, meaning Ivan Rakitic should play the holding midfield role.
Giving the Croat company in the middle of the park, should be Arthur and Arturo Vidal, although Carles Alena is an option as well, in the wake of his brilliant full league debut for Barcelona against Leganes. Finally, Jasper Cillessen should take up his customary place in goal for cup games.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Cillessen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Vidal, Rakitic, Arthur; Malcom, Luis Suarez, Coutinho
- The two sides have played each other 53 times across multiple competitions, with Barcelona bettering their opponent on 30 of those occasions (D13 L10).
- The last three meetings between Barcelona and Sevilla have ended with four or more goals being scored, and there hasn’t been a goalless draw for seven games, dating back to early 2016.
- Barcelona have won each of the last three games that they have played against Sevilla (aggregate score 11-3), although the last meeting at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium ended in a 2-2 draw, with Lionel Messi inspiring a late comeback.
- Sevilla have lost each of their last three games, and worse yet, they were unable to score a goal in any of those outings. Los Nervionenses have also failed to keep a clean sheet in each of their last six matches.
- Both Barcelona and Sevilla have become second half sides lately. While the hosts have scored 15 of their last 18 goals post the half-time interval of a game, four of the last five times that Ernesto Valverde’s men have found the back of the net in La Liga was in the final 45 minutes.
Player to Watch
2019 is starting to become a year of second chances for Philippe Coutinho. Unable to find an end to his struggles, the Brazilian has been provided a silver lining in the form of Ousmane Dembele’s unfortunate injury. The Frenchman’s absence means Coutinho ought to start most games during the period of the pacy winger’s layoff.
So, now is the time for the 26-year-old to shut down the constant rumours surrounding his future at Barcelona by producing a game changing performance. With Lionel Messi not travelling to Seville either, Coutinho will also be the creative chief for the visitors, putting much of the onus on him to help the Copa del Rey take home a positive result from the first leg.
Sevilla 1-2 Barcelona
Before Sunday, Barcelona would have been the outright favourites to win the first leg, what with Ousmane Dembele’s blistering form in addition to the possibility of Lionel Messi playing from the get-go. But, now, Dembele is injured while Messi has inexplicably not travelled with the squad, leaving the tie a bit even.
Sevilla though, are struggling to find the back of the net, and their struggles in front of goal could well continue against a strong Barcelona defence. On the other end, Philippe Coutinho and Malcom will have a point to prove, while Kevin-Prince Boateng will hope for a memorable debut as well, if given a chance.
We expect another loss for Pablo Machin’s men, although this time they should score a crucial goal. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-1 win for Barcelona, which should see Ernesto Valverde & co. have one foot in the semi-finals.