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Three talking points ahead of Barcelona vs Sevilla



Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images

The Spotify Camp Nou prepares to light up its massive floodlight once again on Sunday night when Barcelona take on Sevilla on Matchday 20 of La Liga.

Halfway through the season, the Catalans sit pretty on top of the league standings, five points clear of Real Madrid. However, it is safe to say that the most crucial part of the season arrives now in the form of congested fixtures and non-stop travel.

Xavi Hernandez’s men face off against Jorge Sampaoli’s men before they travel to Estadio de La Ceramica midweek. The Seville-based side sit 13th on the league table and are clearly far from where they would wish to be.

In 19 games so far this season, Sevilla have won just five games and lost eight. They have managed to score 21 goals in that duration but have also conceded a whopping 26 times.

Barça Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Barcelona vs Sevilla.

1. Who starts on the left?

It took a long time for Xavi Hernandez to wrap his head around the best XI he had at his disposal. The so-called ‘Gala team’ has been in the making for over a year, but there always seemed to be something lacking.

It was only when the manager took the road not taken that the switch suddenly clicked. As he fiddles around more with the unconventional formation, it became increasingly clear that a four-man midfield suited the Barcelona squad.

Xavi has thus stuck with the working formula in recent games. His setup now comprises of Sergio Busquets as the lone pivot with Frenkie de Jong and Pedri as the interiors.

While the former does venture forward in attacks, he has a significant role in holding the fortress, while Pedri is given a more free run in the final third. Gavi forms the final cog, starting on the left wing and drifting centrally to make menacing runs into the box.

The newfound system undoubtedly suits the Catalans, but there are questions about its sustainability in the given schedule. Since the setup requires all four of Xavi’s top midfielders to be on the field, it is not feasible to use it in every game.

Barcelona face a hectic run of games in the coming weeks, going up against Villarreal, Manchester United twice and then heading into three Clasicos, rotation is a must. Thus, the manager could be tempted to explore a different formation against a struggling Sevilla.

One of Xavi’s best options could be to revert to a traditional 4-3-3 on the night, bringing back Ansu Fati or Ferran Torres into the starting lineup. The Spaniard would start on the left, with Lewandowski and Raphina completing the forward trident.

2. Lewandowski’s return to full glory

Robert Lewandowski has been one of Barcelona’s most successful signings in recent seasons. The Polish International is just six months into his career in Spain, but has already broken several records and is on track for a special season.

Halfway through the season, he is already three points clear on the top scorers’ list in La Liga with 14 games. Not to mention, he missed three games over the past two weeks through suspension.

Lewy’s influence on Barcelona is, however, not limited only to goals. The 34-year-old is one of the team’s most vocal leaders on the field and can often be seen pushing his comrades on.

Lewangoalski. (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP via Getty Images)

Despite a fiery start to the season, the former Bayern Munchen man has slowed down in recent games. He has not seen regular game time since the end of the FIFA World Cup, and the rustiness is evident in his movements on the field.

Lewandowski scored Barcelona’s match-winning goal against Real Betis midweek but was invisible for the remaining 89 minutes that he was on the field.

While his rustiness may have no bearing on his goalscoring output, Xavi will hope for Lewy to return to his imperial best soon and take the Catalans’ build-up play to the next level.

3. An unimaginable defensive record

Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Barcelona’s defence have created one of the club’s most consistent and resilient backlines in recent history.

In 19 league games so far this term, the Catalans have only conceded seven times. Of that, one was an unfortunate own goal by Jules Kounde in the last game.

If the team manage to maintain a clean sheet against Sevilla at Camp Nou, they stand to break a very special record that has been untouched since the Pep Guardiola era.

It was in 2011-12 that the former manager and club legend oversaw a special backline of Victor Valdes, Dani Alves, Puyol, Mascherano and Adriano to complete ten home league games with just two goals conceded.

Under Xavi Hernandez, Barcelona have only conceded once at home all season. Their tenth home game is against Sevilla on Sunday, and a clean sheet would see them break the historical record by conceding just one goal in as many games.

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