Barcelona will be hoping for a big turnaround in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final against Sevilla, with a place in the final up for grabs.
The Copa del Rey is at its penultimate stage right now, with just the second leg fixtures remaining before the finale is set up. On Wednesday, the marquee fixture will pit Barcelona against Sevilla at Camp Nou, with the visitors currently in the driver’s seat to book a place in the final.
Barcelona reached the semi-finals of the Copa del Rey with hard-fought wins over Cornella, Rayo Vallecano and Granada. The Blaugrana would also be in buoyant mood after ending February on a high with professional wins over Elche and Sevilla, keeping a clean sheet in each of the games.
Sevilla, on the other hand, are yet to concede a single goal in the Copa del Rey this season, with 12 goals to their name in six games so far. Their most recent run, though, has been a bit of a concern, with Julen Lopetegui’s men losing two of their last three games, particularly looking extremely ineffective against Barcelona this past weekend.
The first leg saw Sevilla produce a brilliant performance, as they thoroughly outperformed Barcelona to grab a 2-0 win. Ahead of what will be the third meeting within a month between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Ronald Koeman has a number of pressing injury concerns hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Sevilla. On Wednesday, the Barcelona manager is set to be bereft of the services of as many as five first-team players.
Ronald Araujo is a fresh absentee after sustaining an ankle injury against Sevilla this past weekend. Apart from the young Uruguayan, the likes of Sergi Roberto (hamstring), Miralem Pjanic (ankle), Philippe Coutinho (knee) and Ansu Fati (knee) are all sidelined as well.
Koeman made a tactical change last time out versus Sevilla, a decision that worked wonders. The Barcelona boss should persist with the 3-5-2 formation once again, with Oscar Mingueza, Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti forming the three-man central defensive unit.
The change in formation plays to the strengths of the two wing-backs as well, with Sergino Dest and Jordi Alba getting more freedom going down the flanks. In the middle of the park, Frenkie de Jong and Pedri, who hobbled off last time out but should be fit to start, will form the creative duo while Sergio Busquets will hold the fort in the middle of the park.
Upfront, it will be interesting to see who forms the strike partnership with Lionel Messi. While Antoine Griezmann will be eager to impress, it is Ousmane Dembele who is likely to get the nod, with his pace providing the X-Factor that Barcelona need more in the final third.
Probable Lineup (3-5-2): ter Stegen; Mingueza, Pique, Umtiti; Dest, de Jong, Busquets, Pedri, Alba; Messi, Dembele
Like his counterpart in the Barcelona dugout, Julen Lopetegui also has important players out on the sidelines. The figure for the Sevilla manager, though, is restricted to just two, with Marcos Acuna (hamstring) and Lucas Ocampos (ankle) out on the sidelines.
In particular, it is the absence of Ocampos that is concerning, and Oliver Torres will start on the left side of the Sevilla attack in his stead, with Papu Gomez missing out this time around. On the right flank, Suso is a certainty and the Spaniard will bring the element of creativity in the final third. Leading the line for Sevilla will be Youssef En-Nesyri.
In midfield, Nemanja Gudelj could pip Fernando to the position at the base of the three-man unit, with the 29-year-old tasked with keeping Frenkie de Jong and Pedri quiet on Wednesday. Gudelj will receive defensive support from Joan Jordan and former Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic, who will look to push the visitors forward from the middle of the park.
Finally, in defence, Karim Rekik is likely to start as a makeshift left-back, with Sergio Escudero dropping to the bench. On the right side, Jesus Navas picks himself, with the Sevilla captain holding the key with his driving runs down his wing. At the heart of the Sevilla defence, there is no looking past Jules Kounde and Diego Carlos, with Bono starting in goal.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Bono; Navas, Kounde, Carlos, Rekik; Rakitic, Gudelj, Jordan; Suso, En-Nesyri, Torres
- Wednesday’s fixture will see Barcelona and Sevilla lock horns for a fourth time this season. Both sides have won a game each so far, with the very first meeting of the campaign ending in a 1-1 draw.
- Barcelona have won 5 of their last 6 home games against Sevilla, 3 of which were by 3+ goal margins. However Julen Lopetegui’s side did hold them to a draw at Camp Nou earlier this term in La Liga.
- Sevilla are yet to concede a single goal in Copa del Rey this season, scoring 12 times while keeping a clean sheet in each of their six outings in the cup so far.
- Barcelona have lost just one of their last five games in all competitions (W3 D1), while Sevilla have lost twice in the same period (W3).
- Lionel Messi has a personal record of 38 goals in 42 games to his name against Sevilla, who are his favourite opponents.
Player to Watch
Who else but Lionel Messi? The man who so enjoys taking the field against Sevilla, the Barcelona captain also appears to be in menacing touch at the moment and will be eager to complete a comeback with a performance similar to the one on the weekend. If Messi does turn up, Barcelona will be on course for a famous win. If not, it could be another long night for the hosts.
Barcelona 2-1 Sevilla
This is a game that has the potential to take the tie right down the wire. Barcelona should dominate the proceedings for much of the game and it will not be surprising if they trim down Sevilla’s lead completely at one point. However, Julen Lopetegui’s men should net a crucial goal later in the game to break Barcelona hearts and book their place in the Copa del Rey final.