Following a quite sensational 2-0 victory away at Sevilla, Barcelona turn matters to the Copa del Rey, where they ready themselves to face a Nervión side both in search of revenge and a spot in the Copa Del Rey final.
Date and Kickoff Time: 3rd March; 21:00 CET
Stadium: Camp Nou
Competition: La Copa Del Rey
The last time Fútbol Club Barcelona and Sevilla faced off, Ronald Koeman’s side imposed themselves on their Andalusian opponents to claim a dominant 2-0 away victory. Thanks to goals from Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembélé as well as Ronald Koeman’s tactical ingenuity, the Catalans won all three points at the Ramón Sanchez Pizjuan.
Heading into tomorrow night’s game, both sides find themselves in nearly identical form. In La Liga Santander, Barcelona are on some of the best form they’ve ever been. Since the turn of the year, the Blaugrana have won nine of their ten games, the most impressive of which came against tomorrow’s opponents Sevilla this past weekend. They’ve won a whopping seven away games in a row, equaling their fourth-best run in the Primera División and one set by Pep Guardiola in his final season in the Camp Nou.
In said period, Barcelona top almost every conceivable chart in Spain’s top flight, courtesy of some excellent work by Ronald Koeman. They have the most goals scored in La Liga, the second-best defence and the most points won. As per expected stats, the Garnet and Blue have both the best performing attack and defence, this granting them a seven-point cushion over Real Madrid in terms of expected points and nine over Sevilla.
Sitting fourth on the table amidst their fellow championship candidates in Real Madrid, Barcelona and leaders Atletico, respectively, the Andalusian side are in solid form. Bar their defeat to Barcelona, Los Nervionenses have been in phenomenal form. They boast a record of seven wins in eight appearances, and heading into the Copa del Rey second leg tie against Barcelona, they hold a two-goal cushion.
What to expect from Barcelona?
The game against Sevilla at the Ramon Sánchez Pizjuan was Barcelona’s golden opportunity to display their mental and physical fortitude against one of La Liga’s bigger sides. Fortunately for them, they grabbed onto it, producing one of their best performances of the season yet.
Poll: Which formation should Koeman use tomorrow against Sevilla?— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) March 2, 2021
Now in prime position to overturn the two-goal deficit knowing all well the threat Sevilla pose, Barcelona could do one of two things. On the one hand, they could maintain the shape they had in the weekend game, given it delivered them their best performance, or on the other hand, they could also return to the 4-3-3. Sevilla certainly will not repeat the same mistake twice, therefore Ronald Koeman will have to take a gamble.
The Garnet and Blue are expected to make one or two changes to their starting eleven, these impacted by the injury scared in the weekend.
The first of two changes will take place in central midfield, given Pedri Gonzales’ recent injury. Several clips from Barca’s training sessions have depicted Pedri training with the group, and it certainly would not be wise to have him start this soon on the back of an injury.
As was the case during his substitution, Ronald Koeman could opt for Ilaix Moriba, as despite the disparity in their tactical profile, he easily could slot in for him. The more probable and possibly better change would be one of Riqui Puig for his 18-year old counterpart. They share many similarities tactically and are essentially a like for like swap.
The second change might be one involving Ronald Araújo in for Oscar Mingueza, however, given the possibility of a relapse, this is a change that may or may not be made.
Barça are also expected to repeat the same pressing game as they did the last time, as it was one that Sevilla simply could not cope with. With a 4-3-3, Barcelona easily could implement this, though the riskier and possibly more fruitful tactical setup to implement would be the 3-1-4-2, as it offers the Catalans a 7 v 7 opportunity in the two offensive thirds of the pitch.
What to expect from Sevilla?
Sevilla are a side that have often received neither the respect nor recognition they deserved. This season thanks to the excellent sporting project by Monchi and Julen Lopetegui’s excellent coaching, Sevilla are quite easily one of La Liga’s best-managed sides.
Julen Lopetegui’s side often rely on the use of a 4-3-3 as it offers them a plethora of advantages both in midfield and out wide. Through the technical ability of midfielders such as Ivan Rakitić, Juan Jordan and Oliver Torres, the ex-Madrid manager has at his disposal one of the most creative partnerships at the centre of the park. In the wider areas, he has the likes of Suso, former Barça player Munir El-Haddadi, and fan-favourite as well as Argentine international Lucas Ocampos in their ranks ready to wreak havoc.
Against Barça, Sevilla could still opt for the 4-3-3 because as good as Koeman’s 3-5-2 was, it is by no means the perfect setup. A common problem with the use of any back three, and one that Lopetegui could look to exploit, is the fact that the setups leaves two halfspaces completely unoccupied.
All the manager needs is two sets of either a technically gifted winger and midfielder or a duo involving a winger and a fullback. A tricky and unmarked winger can easily thrive in the vacated halfspaces and cause serious overloads down the wider areas.
The back 3 of is a delicate shape whose propensity to be ruined is often high. Should, for example, Suso and Navas combine in the right-wing, they could create a 2 v 2 situation, one that, if repeated enough times against the defensively frail duo of Clément Lenglet and Jordi Alba, could be catastrophic. If one of them abandons his post, it creates an immediate positional superiority for Los Nervionenses, one that could easily spell the end of the tie if used effectively.
On the back of what was possibly the best month of football in his career, Yassine Bono followed up January with an even better showing in February and is without a doubt one of Sevilla’s most lethal threats. While he doesn’t bring out the sort of thrill that the likes of Suso and Oliver Torres do, he acts as the almost immovable object for Sevilla’s defence.
On a night where Barcelona require a minimum of three goals to advance, no one poses a bigger threat to their chances at a Copa del Rey final than him. One to rarely make a defensive error, Barça will have to put up a mammoth showing if they are to beat him tomorrow
Previous games: WWDLW
Sevilla 0-2 Barcelona | La Liga
Barcelona 3-0 Elche | La Liga
Barcelona 1-1 Cádiz | La Liga
Barcelona 1-4 PSG | UEFA Champions League
Barcelona 5-1 Deportivo Alavés | La Liga
Position in La Liga
53 points in 25 games
16 wins, 5 draws and 4 losses
53 Goals Scored, 22 Goals Conceded
+33 Goal Difference
Previous Games: LWLWW
Sevilla 0-2 Barcelona | La liga
Osasuna 0-2 Sevilla | La Liga
Sevilla 2-3 Borussia Dortmund | UEFA Champions League
Sevilla 1-0 Huesca | La Liga
Sevilla 2-0 Barcelona | Copa Del Rey
Position in La Liga
48 points in 24 games
15 win, 3 draws, 6 losses
34 goals scored, 18 goals conceded
16 goal difference
Head to head record
Sevilla 0-2 Barcelona | La Liga 2020/21
Sevilla 2–0 Barcelona | Copa del Rey 20/21
Barcelona 1-1 Sevilla | La Liga, 20/21
Sevilla 0–0 Barcelona | La Liga, 19/20
Barcelona 4–0 Sevilla | La Liga, 19/20
- Barcelona are on a run of 15 games without defeat in La Liga.
- Sevilla have lost only one of their last 6 La Liga matches.
- Sevilla have the second-best defensive record in La Liga.
Injuries: Ansu Fati (knee), Philippe Coutinho (knee), Sergi Roberto (muscular), Miralem Pjanic (ankle)
Doubt: Pedri, Araujo
Mingueza · Piqué · Lenglet
Dest · Puig · Busquets · de Jong · Alba
Dembele · Messi
Coach: Ronald Koeman
Injuries: Marcos Acuña, Lucas Ocampos
Navas · Koundé · Carlos · Escudero
Rakitić · Fernando · Jordán
Suso · En Nesyri · Gomez
Coach: Julen Lopetegui
Barcelona showed against Sevilla that they were more than capable of putting up a fight and going the extra mile to press for the entirety of the game. Here, they face the tough task of having to win by at least three goals against one of La Liga’s best defences. As has been the case in many ties in this competition, Barça are easily capable of scoring an avalanche of goals, but they have also developed a habit of going into extra time to seal victories there.
Barca Universal prediction: Barcelona 2-0 Sevilla (4-1 AET)
Preview: Barcelona’s strongest XI against Real Madrid
The title race is well and truly wide open. With Atletico Madrid still leaking points and Real Madrid trying to cope up with the tight schedule the Champions League brings with it, Barcelona would hope to be the favourites.
Barcelona travels to Madrid to face a team missing some big names. Sergio Ramos, Rafael Varane, Eden Hazard and Daniel Carvajal all miss out on the decisive clash. Nevertheless, if Los Blancos‘ performance against Liverpool is anything to go by, El Clasico will be a battle to remember. Meanwhile, Barcelona will once again have the services of Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto.
The result on Saturday will count for so much in the title race. In this creme-de-la-creme of clashes, here is how Barcelona could lineup against Real Madrid.
Marc Andre ter Stegen is always the first name on the list for Ronald Koeman. At the Alfredo de Stefano, the German wall will don the gloves and aim to keep the Madrid attack at bay.
Gerard Pique finds himself back in the Squad, however, it seems unlikely he will be given a start considering lack of match fitness. The three-man defence system has worked wonders for the Catalans, and Koeman will not look to change the system. A trio of Ronald Araujo, Oscar Mingueza, and Clement Lenglet could possibly start on Saturday.
Oscar Mingueza has been rock solid and on a constant rise. With every passing game, the youngster’s confidence grows, and so does the performance. Meanwhile, Clement Lenglet had a tremendous game against Real Valladolid, hardly placing a foot wrong. The Frenchman finally looks to be hitting his stride. Ronald Araujo is fit and ready to start once again and will have to be the leader on the field on the night.
The midfield is where the game will be won or lost for Barcelona. The hosts boast of one of the most fearsome trios in midfield, who reiterated their greatness against Liverpool midweek.
Up against Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, it will be crucial for Frenkie de Jong to start in midfield. The Dutchman is one of the best in the business in controlling the tempo of the midfield.
The No.21 will be accompanied by Barcelona’s veteran maestro Sergio Busquets. Busquets will account for so much of controlling the midfield. Moreover, his distribution and defensive contributions will be invaluable.
Pedri will complete the midfield alongside the others. The recently internationally capped Spaniard will have to be on the top of his game at the di Stefano. He will be the fulcrum of Barcelona’s creative outlet.
Sergino Dest did face stagnation in performance last month. In the last few games, however, there has been a resurgence. The USMNT fullback has been more lively than ever in attack and has been completing take-one for fun. It will be crucial for him to exploit the right-wing on the night.
Jordi Alba will unsurprisingly continue to start at left wing-back. With Real Madrid being weakened at right-back, Alba will have his chance on a platter to once again come up trumps.
Ousmane Dembele has often been Koeman’s go-to option as a central player in the new formation. Once again, a two-man forward line could see the Frenchman return to duties in the front line.
Lionel Messi had a relatively quiet game against Valladolid, his first one in 2021. However, he will look to step up on the biggest stage in El Clasico, as he always does. The Argentine has been at the peak of his powers this year, and he could inspire the side to another title with a great game tonight.
Dembele · Messi
Alba · Pedri · Busquets · de Jong · Dest
Lenglet · Araujo · Mingueza
Antoine Griezmann, who recently welcomed his third child, will be more motivated than ever to return to his peak powers. The Frenchman undoubtedly has a celebration or two in store for the latest member of his family and will hunt for a chance to showcase it on Saturday.
Fransisco Trincao could come on for Ousmane Dembele late in the second half to bring in fresh legs. His intricate dribbling could prove invaluable on the night.
Ilaix Moriba could be utilized to ramp up the pressure in the midfield, while Riqui Puig is bound to get a few minutes as well.