The final international break of the year has been and gone; now it’s time for domestic football to attract the spotlight agaian, and it’s time for Barcelona to improve their form. Just a month ago, Luis Enrique’s side were sitting pretty at the top of the table as league leaders; but soon after the table got turned.
Barcelona is currently ranked second in the standings with 25 points. After starting the season off undefeated in their first eight games, Barcelona struggled, losing back-to-back games to Real Madrid and Celta Vigo. In their last game, Barcelona got back on track with a 2-1 victory against Almeria. Neymar and Jordi Alba both scored in that game against Almeria.
Barcelona allowed just five goals this season, they are the best defensive team in the league. Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo has been exceptional in net, allowing just five goals in 11 starts. All credits must go to Barcelona’s elite defense, Bravo has only had to make 20 saves this entire season.
Messi is likely to start this weekend, in a front-three trio completed by fellow South Americans Neymar and Luis Suarez – the latter of whom is yet to get off the mark in the famous strip of his new club.
At back, Gerard Pique’s future looks equally bleak, and a move away from the Camp Nou seems the most likely outcome when the transfer window reopens in January.
The Spaniard has featured in just eight of Barcelona’s 15 games this season, he has vowed to fight for starting role in a side which boasts the best defensive record in the country.
If Sevilla are to take anything away from the game then they will need to improve on their poor recent record away at Camp Nou, which has seen them claim just one point from the last 30.
Barca have won their last five meetings against Los Robjiblancos both home and away, meaning that Unai Emery’s side come into this one as big underdogs.
Sevilla’s top scorer Carlos Bacca is likely to lead the line for Sevilla with Krychowiak fielded in midfield, while Rakitic will line up against his former side for the first time since joining Barcelona in summer transfer window.
With 23 points, Sevilla currently sits in fifth place in La Liga, just two points behind Barcelona. It’s been a long time since Sevilla won the La Liga, 1946 to be precise, but fans are hoping that drought will end this season.
The only two losses for Sevilla this season have been against Athletico Bilbao and Atletico Madrid. In their last game, Sevilla drew with Levante, 1-1. Victor Machin Perez scored the only goal in that game. Sevilla doesn’t have a very high-powered offense. But they are a well-balanced team, and their defense gets the job done when it matters most.
Boss Luis Enrique reportedly held a team meeting this week to state the importance of defeating Los Robjiblancos following two defeats and an unconvincing victory against Almeria.
They are still second in La Liga, two points behind Real Madrid, but Mascherano knows their performances have not been good enough.
“Barca are where they’ve always been,” said the former Liverpool midfielder. “It is a great club with an impact around the world. We’re going through a rough patch after the two recent defeats. Beating Almeria gave us some peace before going off on international duty but we’re well aware that we need to improve. The team has to find ways to try and outplay the opponents. It varies as a consequence of that search but it always has the same identity. Now the most important thing is Sevilla. They are a good side, doing well and they know what they want to do with a coach who wants to play good football.”
Andres Iniesta returned to training this week following a calf strain while Mathieu is also available following the same problem. Thomas Vermaelen is edging closer to a return from a thigh injury but Martin Montoya has suffered from flu this week and is a doubt.
Sevilla’s Piotr Trochowski will be sidelined for Los Robjiblancos with a knee injury as they look to end Barca’s five-match winning run against them.
Possible starting lineup:
Barcelona: Bravo, Alves, Bartra, Mascherano, Alba, Rakitic, Busquets, Xavi, Suarez, Messi, Neymar.
Sevilla: Beto, Coke, Arribas, Carrico, Tremoulinas, Krychowiak, Banega, Deulofeu, Suarez, Vitolo, Bacca.
Barcelona 2-0 Sevilla