Barcelona will be aiming to carry on from where they left off before the international break when they lock horns with Sevilla at Camp Nou this weekend.

Following their trouncing of arch-rivals Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, Barcelona would have felt that the international break came at the wrong moment for them. Nevertheless, they will be hoping to carry their pre-break momentum forward when they play hosts to Sevilla at Camp Nou on Sunday night.

Barcelona demolished Real Madrid 4-0 in their own backyard in their last league encounter to move into the third spot in the La Liga standings. They are just three points shy of Sevilla in second, with a game in hand, and a victory here could make them the favourites to finish as runners-up, while also sparking hopes of a late title tilt.

Xavi Hernandez’s men are currently on a 12-game unbeaten run across all competitions and will want to extend it on Sunday. But, Sevilla will be no pushovers and will pose a stern challenge for Barcelona. Indeed, Julen Lopetegui’s side are enjoying another fine campaign and even though their title challenge has somewhat fallen off the rails recently, they remain a potent team capable of upsetting the applecart.

Sevilla are unbeaten in their previous 15 La Liga matches but have drawn each of their last three, most recently being held to a goalless stalemate by Real Sociedad. It has led to Real Madrid opening up a nine-point lead at the top of the table. Los Nervionenses have won just one of their previous five in all competitions and will be hoping to get things back on track with a positive result against Barcelona.

The reverse fixture had ended in a 1-1 draw, with Barcelona failing to make the most of their numerical advantage after Sevilla ace Jules Kounde was sent off in the second period. Ahead of their latest meeting this weekend, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Barcelona

Barcelona have a fresh injury concern heading into the game as right-back Sergino Dest has been ruled out with an injury. The USMNT star misses out along with fellow defenders Sergi Roberto and Samuel Umtiti, while Ansu Fati is also not ready for a comeback yet. Luuk de Jong will also be unavailable after testing positive for coronavirus.

Barcelona will line up in their usual 4-3-3 formation in front of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen. With Dest ruled out, Dani Alves becomes the undisputed starter at right-back while there is no looking past Jordi Alba on the left side. Gerard Pique will take his rightful place at the heart of the defence, but Eric Garcia could feature ahead of Ronald Araujo, who was heavily involved for Uruguay.

Sergio Busquets, who was not called up for the Spain national team, should occupy the base of the three-man midfield unit for Barcelona against Sevilla. He will likely be supported by La Masia graduate Nico Gonzalez, with Frenkie de Jong likely to be rested keeping an eye on the UEFA Europa League quarter-final against Eintracht Frankfurt next week. Pedri is a guaranteed starter in the third slot for the Catalans.

Moving forward into the attacking third, Ferran Torres played for more than 120 minutes for Spain during the last couple of weeks and could be held back by Xavi. Instead, the manager could opt for a front three of Adama Traore, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Ousmane Dembele, who were not involved during the international break.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Alves, Pique, Garcia, Alba; Nico, Busquets, Pedri; Adama, Aubameyang, Dembele

Sevilla

Sevilla’s injury woes do not let up as Thomas Delaney has returned from the international break with a knock and will be unavailable for the trip to Camp Nou, along with fellow midfielder Fernando. Goalkeeper Bono is also a major doubt for the visiting side while Marcos Acuna, Alejandro Gomez and Suso could also miss out.

Sevilla will also line up in a 4-3-3 setup against Barcelona. But Bono’s involvement a doubt, Marko Dmitrovic could get the nod between the sticks at Camp Nou. Jules Kounde, who was sent off in the reverse fixture, is certain to start in defence and will have Diego Carlos as his partner. Out wide, the full-pairing of Jesus Navas and Ludwig Augustinsson is expected to feature from the kickoff.

With Fernando and Delaney both missing, Nemanja Gudelj becomes the automatic selection in the holding midfield role for Sevilla. He will be tasked with keeping a lid on the output of Pedri. Support will come from former Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic, who will also look to play progressive passes forward when on the ball, while Joan Jordan should be the third midfielder for the visiting side.

The attacking trident of Lucas Ocampos, Youssef En-Nesyri and Jesus ‘Tecatito’ Corona pretty much pick themselves for Julen Lopetegui’s side, with Munir El Haddadi, Anthony Martial and Rafa Mir providing cover from the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Dmitrovic; Navas, Kounde, Carlos, Augustinsson; Rakitic, Gudelj, Jordan; Ocampos, En-Nesyri, Corona

Key Stats

  • Barcelona have not lost any of their last 18 home games against Sevilla in La Liga (W15 D3).
  • Sevilla have not lost in three of their last four meetings with Barcelona in La Liga (D3 L1).
  • Barcelona have not lost any of their last 13 matches in La Liga (W9 D4). It is the second-best current unbeaten run in the competition only behind that of Sevilla (15).
  • Sevilla striker Youssef En-Nesyri has failed to score in his last nine La Liga matches and should he fail to score on Sunday, it will be his longest run of games without finding the back of the net in the competition for Sevilla (10).
  • Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has scored seven goals in seven games for Barcelona in La Liga.

Player to Watch

Ousmane Dembele

The 24-year-old Barcelona contract rebel has been in absolutely top form in the second half of the ongoing campaign, which has sparked hope of him staying put at Camp Nou beyond the ongoing season. Indeed, Dembele has been one of the best performers for the Catalans over the past couple of months, bagging a goal and nine assists from just 12 La Liga outings, playing a key role in their ascent up the table.

While his future continues to remain a quandary, Dembele will be keen on continuing to make key contributions to Xavi Hernandez’s side. Against a well-drilled Sevilla defence, the Frenchman’s pace, direct running and trickery could become crucial as Barcelona look to register another important win.

Prediction

Barcelona 2-0 Sevilla

Confidence in the Barcelona camp will be sky high after they mauled Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu last time out. Furthermore, the Blaugrana have a strong record at home against Sevilla, who themselves have been struggling to convert draws into victories of late.

While it will not be a straightforward game, form and momentum are on the Catalans’ side, which should help them come out on top on Sunday. The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-0 win for Barcelona against Sevilla.

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