Jorge Sampaoli’s high flying Sevilla will welcome a wounded Barcelona side who will look to try and get back to winning ways against a side that is yet to be defeated at home this season.
There couldn’t be a better time to face Barcelona. Most of their key players are sidelined and they are just coming off a humiliating 3-1 defeat at the hands of Manchester City. Sampaoli’s men couldn’t have possibly asked for a better time to face them and will look to take revenge for their Supercopa de Espana defeat earlier in the season.
The Andalusians are undefeated at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium and with the help of their fans tonight, will look to make sure that it stays that way. Sevilla have suffered defeat only once this season, while Barcelona have been on the losing side on more than one occasion, notably against Alaves and Celta Vigo. A victory for Sevilla will see them move into second place, behind Real Madrid, and Sampaoli will surely fancy their chances.
Sampaoli will be without Gabriel Mercado, who is suspended after picking up his 5th yellow card of the season. Other than the Argentine, there is a full strength squad to chose from after Samir Nasri and striker Wissam Ben Yedder were recalled into the team.
Sevilla will likely be set up in their usual 3-4-3 with Samir Nasri switching to the center on occasion to make it like a 3-4-2-1. The midfield duo of Steven N’Zonzi and Vicente Iborra have been brilliant for the Andalusians this season and they will be flanked by Vitolo and Mariano who will provide the width to their attack. Sampaoli’s men will take to the flanks to launch their attacks, so as to keep Sergio Busquets isolated and reduce his influence on proceedings. Though Barcelona’s midfield reinforcements such as Rafinha and Denis Suarez aren’t to be underestimated, the absence of Andres Iniesta should make life considerably easier for the Sevilla midfield.
Their high pressing and tenacious displays will be tested tonight by the very best Spanish football has to offer. Winning possession and retaining it, especially in that midfield, will be key to their chances of victory. Luciano Vietto, Ben Yedder and Samir Nasri will come up against a severely depleted defence and they will be desperate to take advantage of the absence of Pique, Alba and a proper right back. The interchanging play between the Sevilla front three should be a hassle for Mascherano & co, especially Samir Nasri, who has been know of the cut into the center and initiate attacks.
Predicted Starting XI: Rico; Rami, Carrico, Escudero; Mariano, N’Zonzi, Iborra, Vitolo; Nasri, Yedder, Vietto
Luis Enrique would have had quite a few headaches going into this tie with the absence of Andres Iniesta, Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique and the lack of a proper right back, despite Sergi Roberto’s commendable performances. Denis Suarez or Rafinha are likely to step in for Iniesta, while Lucas Digne and Samuel Umtiti will continue filling in for Alba and Pique.
While only the front three are at full strength for Barcelona, it is the midfield that will be the biggest issue. Sevilla’s use of width during attacks, combined with their high pressing game is going to pose a huge threat to the squad. The Andalusians aren’t likely to initiate too many attacks from the center, making life difficult for Sergio Busquets, who will be pulled away from his main position. And it is yet to be seen how Iniesta’s substitute fares in the middle of the park alongside Ivan Rakitic and Busquets. Summer acquisition Andre Gomes may also feature in place of Iniesta, but it is likely that Denis Suarez will be brought into the starting XI instead, given his familiarity with the philosophy.
Sergi Roberto is Barcelona’s weakest link in defence and that is something Luciano Vietto and Vitolo will surely look to exploit. The Catalans will still be reeling from their 3-1 thrashing at the hands of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City during midweek and Sevilla will surely fancy their chances to try to do something similar, though not with the same convincing scoreline.
Predicted Starting XI: Ter Stegen; Roberto, Mascherano, Umtiti, Digne; Denis, Busquets, Rakitic; Messi, Suarez, Neymar
- This is the 5th time Barcelona and Sevilla have faced each other in 2016. Barcelona have won each time.
- Sevilla have lost only 1 game in the La Liga this season.
- Sevilla are undefeated at home in the La Liga this season.
- Barcelona were the last team to beat Sevilla at their home stadium, with a 0-2 win in the first leg of the Supercopa De Espana.
Players To Watch
Sevilla: Steven N’Zonzi
The 27-year-old has been in stellar form for the Andalusians this season and Jorge Sampaoli’s arrival has seemed to have brought the best out of him. The former Stoke City man is arguably the most integral player in Sevilla’s midfield and his form will largely decide how well Barcelona are able to manage proceedings in the middle of the park. The absence of Andres Iniesta should allow him to have a greater influence in midfield and the battle between Rakitic/Busquets and N’Zonzi will be one to watch.
Barcelona: Lionel Messi
He managed to save them against Valencia with a last minute penalty, and he also netted their only goal against Manchester City during midweek. However, with Iniesta injured and the Barcelona back four in disarray, Messi will take the arm-band once again and Luis Enrique will expect a match winning display from his Captain. The 29-year-old has notched up 7 goals and 2 assists in 8 La Liga appearances this term and his form will be vital if Barcelona wish to leave Seville with all 3 points.
Sevilla 2-2 Barcelona
Jorge Sampaoli’s men will look to continue their long undefeated streak at home this season and after victories against Atletico Madrid and most recently a 4-0 thrashing of Dinamo Zagreb in midweek, will fancy their chances to take all 3 points at home. Despite being short on personnel, Barcelona still have the quality within their ranks to pull off a narrow victory against the Andalusians. But given Sevilla’s current form, it would be extremely difficult to see the Blaugrana emerging from this match victorious. Avoiding defeat at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium would be a huge feat in itself and Luis Enrique’s men will gladly take the point.