The Vicente Calderon is set to showcase a clash of champions as La Liga winners Barcelona take on UEFA Europa League Champions Sevilla in the final of the Copa Del Rey as both teams look to win their second major trophy of the season.
Both teams are high on confidence going into this tie. Sevilla were recently crowned Europa League champions for the third straight time while Barcelona managed to seal their La Liga title on the final day of the season against Granada.
Sevilla go into this tie with a mixed run of form, winning only 2, losing 3 and drawing once in their last 6 games in all competitions. Emery’s men will be looking to win their 10th title in 10 years, at the expense of Barcelona. They didn’t fare well in the league this term, finishing only 7th. But even then, they have been assured of a Champions League spot for next season via their Europa League victory. Their domestic season will still be seen as a failure as they finished 12 points behind the Champions League spots and lost 14 out of 38 games this season.
Barcelona go into this tie in good form, recording 5 wins on the trot, scoring 24 goals in the process while conceding none. Before this explosive run of form, the Catalans seemed to have imploded mid season, losing consecutive games and getting knocked out of the Champions League. In the process, they also gave up their 9 point lead at the top of the table and were level on points with Atletico, and a point above Real. However, with 5 games to go, Luis Enrique’s men showed their true character and grit as they fought back to win the league in style.
This will be the fourth time the two sides meet this season. Sevilla recorded a 2-1 win over Barcelona in the league last October, after which the Catalans went on a 39 game unbeaten streak which was ended by Real Madrid. The two sides had met even earlier, in the UEFA Super Cup final, which ended 5-4 after a stoppage time Pedro winner. In February, the Andalusians were beaten 2-1 at the Nou Camp in the league.
Team News & Tactics
Luis Enrique will have a near-full strength squad to chose from. Goal keeper Claudio Bravo may miss the tie, but even if he was fit, Marc Andre Ter Stegen would be the first choice for the cup final.
The Catalans are expected to lineup in their usual 4-3-3 formation, with Luis Suarez spearheading the MSN. He will be supported by Lionel Messi and Neymar on the left and right wings respectively. Behind them, Rakitic and Iniesta will be tasked with controlling the game with Busquets between the two of them providing cover for the defence.
Mascherano & Co. aren’t expected to face too much trouble while Barcelona are in possession. Barcelona will dominate possession and unleash wave after wave of attacks on the Sevilla defence. Barcelona will have to be wary of the threat posed by Sevilla on the counter with Gamerio, Coke and Banega.
Predicted XI: Ter Stegen; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Messi, Suarez, Neymar
Sevilla will not have the benefit of a full strength squad going into this game. There will also be doubts on the fitness of the players after having just played a few days ago. Steven N’zonzi will miss out through suspension, as will Micheal Krohn-Dehli. Adil Rami is expected to be fit for this tie and Sergio Rico will return between the posts, in place of David Soria. Benoit Temoulinas is also set to miss out with a knee injury. Kolodziejczak has been banned, after he was accussed of shouting “son of a bitch” to a match official during their last La Liga game.
Unai Emery is expected to field the usual 4-2-3-1 formation. Rami and Carrico are the unlucky ones who will be tasked with keeping Luis Suarez in check. It is unlikely that Escudero and Mariano will be allowed to bomb forward with the threat of Messi, Neymar, Alves and Alba looming.
Iborra and Krychowiak will also have to be on the defensive and keep Rakitic and Iniesta in check and make sure they exert minimal influence on the game.
With the way Barcelona play, Sevilla will be on the defensive for most of the match and will be have to capitalise when they get the opportunity to counter. It will be vital that Sevilla absorb all the early pressure that Barcelona apply from the start and be defensively stable as soon as possible. Not conceding is half the game won and Emery will likely tell his men the same.
Predicted XI: Rico; Mariano, Rami, Carrico, Escudero; Iborra, Krychowiak; Coke, Banega, Vitolo; Gameiro
Players To Watch
Barcelona: Luis Suarez
The Uruguayan hitman has been in stellar form this season for Barcelona and will be looking for his 60th goal in all competitions against the Andalusians tonight. Over the course of the past two seasons, he has established himself as the best striker in the world and amongst the top three players on the planet. His 59 goals this season is the highest in Europe’s top leagues, winning him the Golden Shoe for the 15/16 season. He has already helped Barcelona to the La Liga title and the Blaugrana will look to El Pistolero to help them to their second title of the season.
After Barca’s mini scare in April which saw them lose their 9 point lead at the top of the table and lose consecutive games after a 39 match unbeaten streak, they needed 5 wins out of 5 to seal the title. The Catalans responded by scoring 24 goals in 5 matches with Suarez getting 14 of those.
Sevilla: Kevin Gameiro
Kevin Gameiro is to Sevilla what Suarez is to Barcelona. He has been Sevilla’s star performer this season. The Frenchman has collected 29 goals this season, including one against Liverpool in the Europa League final and he will be looking to add to that tally tonight against Barcelona. It’s been a great season for Gameiro and he has even been rewarded with a Euro 2016 call up for his country.
Interestingly, Gameiro’s opponents tonight have been rumoured to been keen admirers of his talents and will be looking to bring him to the Nou Camp in the summer, as they look to add depth to their squad and not overplay Luis Suarez.
Barcelona 3-1 Sevilla
Sevilla, having recently just played a high intensity final, will definitely not be at their best. It is unlikely that they will be able to recreate the same kind of intensity against the Blaugrana. Barcelona outmatch Sevilla in every area of the pitch, and they have had a week’s time to rest and train since their title win at Granada. The Catalans will not allow Sevilla to attack like they did against Liverpool and it is likely that the Blaugrana blitzkrieg will be too much for the Andalusians to handle.