Ronald Koeman will experience his most challenging game till date as manager of Barcelona when they host Europa League winners Sevilla at Camp Nou.

Barcelona returned to life in La Liga with a new look under a new manager – Ronald Koeman and were able to quickly push aside two of the biggest teams in the league. They took on Villarreal in gameweek 1 and registered a dominant 4-0 victory with Ansu Fati on the scoresheet twice. Last week was some sort of a personal achievement for the club as they beat Celta Vigo 3-0, which is also the first time they’ve won Municipal de Balaidos since 2015.

The team, despite being structured differently, looks quite used to the formation and are connecting well. The integration of Philippe Coutinho into the team as a no. 10 also seems to be paying off and has taken some creative pressure off Lionel Messi.

The kid is special. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

The kid is special. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

While the first two games seemed exhausting on paper, they looked anything but a challenge for the Blaugrana. Their real first test is hosting Sevilla at the Camp Nou.

The Seville outfit are two for two as well but have looked a lot less sharp than their weekend opponents. Last week, they opened the doors of the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan to Levante. Despite creating multiple chances, Julen Lopetegui’s men were rescued by a 92nd-minute winner by Youssef En-Nesyri.

The corresponding fixture last season turned out to be a walk in the park for Barcelona as they scored four unanswered goals past Sevilla. After the four goals, they also had Ousmane Dembele and Ronald Araujo sent off in the dying minutes of the game, but it was late enough for their opponents to be unable to do anything.

Team News & Tactics

Barcelona

There are bound to be rotations after Ronald Koeman started the exact same starting eleven two games in a row in the span of four days. The most important one of which will come in the backline, as Clement Lenglet is suspended after picking up two yellow cards against Celta Vigo, and will be replaced by Ronald Araujo.

That makes two for two left-footed centre backs for Barca as Samuel Umtiti is out injured. Gerard Pique is expected to shift to the left side of the centre-back pairing in order to accommodate Araujo, who is still a teenager. Jordi Alba is missing a clear deputy at this point with Junior Firpo out injured and will retain his spot in the XI.

Barcelona announced the signing of Sergiño Dest from Ajax in the week, and he might be handed his debut on Sunday to give Sergi Roberto some rest. Neto will complete the defence with the gloves, as Marc-Andre ter Stegen is out injured after undergoing surgery.

Both of Sergio Busquets and Frenkie de Jong completed 90 minutes against Celta, and we expect the former to be replaced by Miralem Pjanic in the double pivot as the latter is too vital for the manager’s plans.

Philippe Coutinho will take up the centrally advanced positions on the pitch as the no. 10, combining with Lionel Messi to string together the chances for others. They will be aided by Francisco Trincao who is expected to make his first start for Barcelona tomorrow.

Finally, Ansu Fati will complete the lineup from the left side and will act as the most advanced forward on the pitch, making off the ball runs.

Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Neto; Dest, Araujo, Pique, Alba; Pjanic, de Jong; Trincao, Coutinho, Fati; Messi

Sevilla

Unlike Koeman, Julen Lopetegui will have the pleasure to have his pick of the cherry on Sunday, with his entire squad fit. Carlos Fernandez, who was on loan to Granada last season, is the only player termed as doubtful but is part of the squad list for the game.

The Spanish manager has placed his trust in Bono over Tomas Vaclik for this season after his sensational displays in the Europa League, and he is expected to continue in goal over his senior.

There is a reason for Lopetegui to alter his defence from the last game after Sergio Escudero failed to provide substantial attacking depth, despite covering well in defence. He will be replaced by new signing Marcos Acuna.

At the same time, the rest of it will remain the same – Jules Kounde and Diego Carlos in the heart of the defence, with captain Jesus Navas on the right, hoping to continue his spectacular form against Barcelona.

The critical battle will be in the midfield as Ivan Rakitic returns to Camp Nou after five trophy-laden years with Barcelona. He will be continually pushing ahead to create problems for Barca’s midfield duo, while Joan Jordan does his best to dispute second balls with his strength. Fernando is expected to complete the midfield triumvirate.

Moving forward, Lopetegui might restore Suso on the right-hand side due to his quality to pick out creative passes. He and Lucas Ocampos could occupy the wide attacking roles, while goalscorer from last week, Youssef En-Nesyri will spearhead the frontline.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Bono; Navas, Kounde, Carlos, Acuna; Jordan, Fernando, Rakitic; Suso, En-Nesyri, Ocampos

Key Stats

  • Barcelona and Sevilla have played a total of 55 fixtures against each other since the turn of the century. Of these, the Catalans have a massive lead, winning 36 of them, while losing just nine.
  • The last ten times these two sides have met, Barcelona have won seven, drawn two and lost just one.
  • Barcelona have scored 15 goals against Sevilla the last five times these sides have met at Camp Nou.
  • This will be the first-ever meeting of Ronald Koeman and Julen Lopetegui.
  • The last time Sevilla were able to register a win against Barcelona at Camp Nou was back in the 2002/03 season when they won 3-0.

Player to Watch

Francisco Trincao

Ready to work his magic in Spain. (Photo by Vladimir Simicek/AFP via Getty Images)

Ready to work his magic in Spain. (Photo by Vladimir Simicek/AFP via Getty Images)

Francisco Trincao is definitely one to keep an eye on as he is expected to be given his first start for Barcelona on Sunday. It is a significant signing for Barca too following the fitness issues of Ousmane Dembele, and Antoine Griezmann’s inability to adapt to the team just yet.

The ex-Braga winger is a ball-dominant forward, who likes to start out wide beside the touchline before moving inwards and attempting a cross at the far post or a shot. This can prove to be useful for the Blaugrana as not only will it take the creative burden off Messi; it will give Ansu Fati more reasons to make runs to the far post looking for an opportunity score.

The Portuguese is a tricky winger with silky footwork and will, without question dazzle the fans, but he will have to expand his horizons and add more to his work-rate if he wants to be a constant in Ronald Koeman’s system.

Prediction

Barcelona 4-1 Sevilla

Barcelona have spectacularly started the season, with two back-to-back high-scoring victories and some sensational individual displays from the likes of Ansu Fati, Philippe Coutinho, Frenkie de Jong among others. While Sevilla is one of the most challenging games in the league, Barca have regularly blown them over at Camp Nou, and with extra motivation in their stride, we expect Sunday to be no different.

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