In a critical encounter in one of Spain’s most respected stadiums, Barça dropped two vital points. A match review of the Sevilla 0–0 Barcelona.
Sometimes the words from the protagonists are enough to exemplify a situation. After all, those who live the action tend to have more reasons and arguments than those who watch it from a distance. Conclusions can be drawn, but the sensations from those who are in the eye of the storm already tell far more than any external opinion.
In this sense, few players are as realistic and open when expressing their thoughts than Gerard Piqué. After many mixed feelings from a goalless draw at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán, Piqué has made a confession. “Seeing what we have seen in these last two rounds of games, it’s going to be very difficult to win La Liga”. Pessimistic, or realistic? Certainly more realistic than those who just look from the outside. The Catalan, without mincing his words, has been sincere and has expressed that he does not see Real Madrid dropping many points. Now, after two points dropped, it’s Los Blancos who can have the advantage.
In spite of all of this, the opening 30 minutes against Sevilla had been very encouraging for culés. The pressing was highly effective, as so were the mechanisms to get away from the locals’ press and circulate the ball until the final third. Sergio Busquets, stellar once more, was setting the tempo of the game from midfield. Nélson Semedo had a confident display at right-back. And, meanwhile, Luis Suárez and Iván Rakitić seemed to have found their old form again after all the problems they had had in recent months. Suárez, with his hold-up play, and Rakitić, effective on and off the ball, were greatly contributing in making Sevilla look like a much weaker opposition.
The ball circulation was much faster than what had been seen against Leganés on Tuesday. However, in the 30th minute, the cooling break gave Sevilla a chance to breathe. Manager Julen Lopetegui fully benefitted from this opportunity to introduce some slight adjustments and, one minute later, the Nervionenses bridged the gap with Barça. While the Catalans manage to regain control for the later stage of the first half, it was just a hint of what was coming up in the second period.
Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui seemed to win the tactical battle from the bench | Photo by Fernando Ruso via Imago
After half-time, Barcelona’s intensity dropped, and so did its solidity and offensive threat. Despite retaining possession, they could not have the control. As the visitors failed to produce significant chances, Sevilla could set up an efficient counter with just a couple of passes, and with substitute Éver Banega unlocking the blaugranas‘ defence. Barça needed a reaction, but this never seemed to come. Neither did substitutions. For fans, the changes implemented by Quique Setién were too late, and not good enough.
Arthur Melo was introduced for Martin Braithwaite, but the impact was minimal. Antoine Griezmann, surprisingly on the bench from the start, came on for Arturo Vidal later on, but the quality from the Frenchman was not enough to change the result either. At last, 20-year-old midfielder Riqui Puig was brought in to add fresh legs and a fresh mind, but he only enjoyed five insufficient minutes on the pitch. Ansu Fati, goalscorer against Leganés, could not even get playtime off the bench.
Barcelona needed a complete new face, but only three substitutions, rather than the allowed five, were utilised. The azulgranas failed to create clear cut chances in the second period, except for a decent one from Luis Suárez. But Sevilla were not inferior to Barça after the break, and the draw was, at least, fair for both parties.
❛ Piqué saying Real Madrid won’t drop points? I think it’s the frustration of the moment. Maybe he thinks differently tomorrow ❜
With a 0–0 in a duel that promised goals, Sevilla can remain in La Liga’s third position while Barça lose two critical points in one of the nine finals that were remaining in the league contest. Real Madrid now have the advantage, three points behind but with a game in hand as they visit Real Sociedad on Sunday. Madrid have a favourable head-to-head record in the race with Barça, who will be hoping for more twists in this unpredictable battle for the domestic trophy.
Barcelona 4-0 Athletic Bilbao: Match Review
A cup final has to be won. Barcelona and Athletic Club are the two clubs to have played the most Spanish Cup finals in history.
However, for the big occasion, one team was the most dominant. Barcelona kept the ball and ran riot on the Basque defence. The only aspect missing was the finishing, but the Catalans could be proud of their first-half display. The giants were so dominant that they had 82% of possession before the 40th-minute mark.
Marcelino’s men were nothing special apart from a few scares. The red and white outfit kept on defending their goal as if their lives depended on it. On the other hand, Barça could not crack the hermetic Basque backline, but Gerard Piqué tamed every attempt at a counter-attack Iñaki Williams tried to mount.
After a disappointing first-half display in El Clasico last weekend, Barcelona played some of their best football in the first half of the Cup final. Nonetheless, they still had to put their finishing boots on because the scare of getting beaten by an undeserved goal was too big.
Well, when Barça decided to lace their finishing boots, the game was over. The scoreline suggests the most inch-perfect of performances, and that’s precisely what Barça put on display for their fans.
Every player on the pitch put in a thorough performance and, in 12 minutes, the game was over. Frenkie de Jong and Lionel Messi were outstanding, much like Antoine Griezmann and Oscar Mingueza.
Along with the 6-1 demolition of Real Sociedad a month ago, this was perhaps the Catalans’ best performance of the season. What makes this performance better is that it came in a cup final, 721 days after Barcelona’s last trophy. This Spanish cup trophy is the result of months of serious work and beautiful emotions. Ronald Koeman deserves a lot of praise for what he has done with this Barça side.
5′ Sergio Busquets sends a beautiful chip towards Athletic’s area, and Lionel Messi connects with the ball. The Argentine finds Frenkie de Jong, but the Dutchman’s shot hits the post and Unai Simón before the Basque defence clears the ball.
47′ Lionel Messi kickstarts a counter-attack as Sergiño Dest is in acres of space. The American defender squares it to Antoine Griezmann, whose efforts end up in Unai Simón’s gloves.
52′ Barcelona play a short corner. Jordi Alba crosses the ball, and a deflection takes it towards Busquets. Unai Simón takes care of the holding midfielder’s effort.
59′ GOAL! Athletic Club 0-1 Barça: Oscar Mingueza intercepts an Iñaki Williams pass in the Blaugrana box. The youngster gets the ball to Messi. The captain spots Frenkie de Jong on the right who sends a great cross to Griezmann, who does not miss twice.
63′ GOAL’ Athletic Club 0-2 Barça: Barcelona play some great football at the edge of h
Their opponents’ area, and Alba sends another stupendous cross. Frenkie de Jong, after a brilliant run, heads in the ball and doubles the lead for his side.
68′ GOAL! Athletic Club 0-3 Barça: Messi goes on a beautiful run on the right and finds Frenkie de Jong. After a one-two, the midfielder finds his captain with little to no space. The captain does his usual magic and scores in the bottom corner.
71′ GOAL! Athletic Club 0-4 Barça: Pedri finds Alba, who plays the most inch-perfect one-two with Griezmann. The left-back’s backpass meets Messi. The Argentine legend finds the net at Unai Simón’s near post.
Man of the match: Frenkie de Jong
Of course, the leader of this demolition was the main man in midfield: Frenkie de Jong. The Dutchman’s first-half display was great, but it lacked the finishing touch, the end product.
After that, the 23-year-old took it upon himself to destroy Athletic and provided two assists while scoring one himself. This win does not come without a de Jong in the mood. The Blaugrana midfielder was everywhere in the second half, and he tortured a defence by being everywhere at any given time.
It is to no one’s surprise that Barça began being clinical when de Jong decided to play higher up the pitch and with more intensity. This Copa final was also de Jong’s most decisive in a Barça kit.