Thursday’s Seville derby between Sevilla and Betis marked the return of La Liga in Spain, but what can Barça learn from it as they prepare to visit Mallorca on Saturday?
After 93 days since the last Eibar v Real Sociedad on March 10, La Liga finally returned on Thursday as the world continues to defeat a coronavirus pandemic that has sadly caused many victims. But there was hardly a better way to commemorate the return of the vitality of La Liga than with a Seville derby. In spite of the disheartening sight of seeing an empty Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán for the historic clash of the two fierce rivals of the Andalusian capital, it was a fitting clash to kick off this new normality in Spain.
In the end, Sevilla FC achieved a vital and encouraging 2–0 victory, with second-half goals by Lucas Ocampos, from the penalty spot, and Fernando Reges, assisted by Ocampos himself after a corner kick. Coach Julen Lopetegui, who seems to have found the perfect formula for Sevilla, had much clearer ideas than his counterpart Rubi, who managed a less inspired Betis with questionable personality. Despite the enormous technical quality of Betis, with the likes of Nabil Fekir, Sergio Canales and even Barça loanee Carles Aleñá, there was no depth and threat from the flanks, and little ability to break the lines.
Sevilla got a deserved and convincing win to cement their place in the top three in the table. Meanwhile, Betis continue to have the same flat sensations they transmitted before the break. But are there any conclusions that can be drawn from the Seville Derby, which kicked off a hectic month with games every single day? What can the other teams learn from the opening post-pandemic fixture in La Liga?
Teams don’t lose their essence
For better or worse, sides will continue to have the same recognisable traits they had before the stop of football. The style of play is not lost, obviously as managers remain the same. But, surprisingly, the virtues and weaknesses of each continue to be as highlighted as before. For instance, Sevilla had a well-defined system and structure, with aggressiveness in the final third through Lucas Ocampos and ex-blaugrana Munir El Haddadi, even if they sometimes lacked some creativity when building up. Still, Julen Lopetegui’s job is commendable and highly noticeable. Even with set pieces, with Sevilla continuously aiming at the near post to create goalscoring opportunities.
❛ We were in low-risk zones, they pressed us well and we weren’t clinical in danger zones ❜
Betis’ coach on the loss against Sevilla
Real Betis, though, were the complete opposite: huge quality to circulate the ball, but almost non-existent capacity to imbalance the Nervionenses‘ organised block. Betis had many inventive players in the centre, especially left-footed ones, but no one to offer runs in behind or out wide. Most actions had to be solved through individual brilliance rather than by generating positional and numerical superiorities or 2v1s. Nabil Fekir, their most gifted star, always had to receive with his back to goal, turn around, and then take on at least two defenders as there was no synergy or chemistry between the collective.
Statistically, Betis had more completed passes ( 415 to Sevilla’s 318 ), and even more take-ons ( 16 successful out of 21 attempts, from Sevilla’s 9 out of 21 ). But it was the locals who had more passes in the final third ( 97 to Betis’ 70 ), made more crosses ( 25 to 11 ) and more tackles ( 39 to 31 ). This data already tells a lot about both: the patience on the ball from Betis, even if excessive at times, compared to the decisiveness and clarity from Sevilla in both areas.
Mental strength is the key
Sevilla had a colossal self-belief in Lopetegui’s coherent ideas, while Betis had no confidence in others and themselves. The contrasting competitiveness became apparent when analysing the standout figures from the duel. Argentinian Lucas Ocampos seemed extra motivated as he recorded one goal and one assist, as well as being named Man of the Match. The only disappointment for him was that he couldn’t receive a standing ovation from a packed Sánchez Pizjuán.
Diego Carlos continued to demonstrate that he’s one of the centre-backs of La Liga, while his 21-year-old partner Jules Koundé was absolutely perfect in his positioning, aerially and in winning 7 out of 8 duels. The mental, physical and qualitative superiority from this defensive partnership was overwhelming. The likes of Fernando and Joan Jordán were sensational from midfield too, while Munir El Haddadi was very inspired in spite of not having been a regular starter this season.
❛ Overall, Sevilla were better than us
The players are going to be very fatigued, it’s more about mentality ❜
Betis was pure technique, but very little hunger or cohesion. The Sevilla footballers were far more ambitious, stimulated and focused, which is by no means easy after such a long break. With the uncertainty and unpredictability of these first fixtures, having a clear mind and a strong mentality could be fundamental to compete again to one’s full capacity.
Technique is not lost
While we could all have thought that the first matches would be very rusty and with players being very imprecise, the truth is that the technique and accuracy seems to have barely suffered from this break. Obviously the month of preparation and trainings has largely contributed to this, but, at the same time, the on-pitch coordination and technical movements haven’t been affected by inactivity.
Mentally, tactically and physically, Sevilla looked significantly superior to their historic adversaries Betis | Photo by Kiko Hurtado via Imago
It is undeniable that playing at 100%, especially in terms of physique, is almost impossible in these initial weeks. But this gets compensated by a talent and class that never disappears. Whether tactics are poor or not, the likes of Fekir, Canales or Ocampos continue to retain their magic and finesse. Similarly, technical teams like Barcelona could get less affected by the lack of actions than others. The defensive sides may suffer physically, but the quality of Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets, Antoine Griezmann or Frenkie de Jong will continue to be appreciated by fans.
Substitutions can make an impact
No, Sevilla’s game wasn’t won through substitutions, nor did any of the goalscorers start from the bench. But still, the infinite amount of talent from the Blanquirrojos must have been scary for rivals. La Liga, as the other leagues, has allowed five substitutions per team per match, as long as they are divided in a maximum of three different blocks, excluding half-time. Moreover, 23 players can make the squad lists, instead of the usual 18. The aim is to protect the footballers’ health and fitness.
❛ If there weren’t five substitutions, we would have finished with nine men each because it was such a demanding game ❜
Sevilla, who have an insanely deep squad, took advantage of their five substitutions: Éver Banega, Youssef En-Nesyri, Suso, Franco Vázquez and Sergio Escudero were subbed on in the second half. Not a bad bench to have. Betis used the likes of Diego Lainez, Loren Morón or the veteran Joaquín Sánchez to change the dynamics of the game, but they couldn’t fix all of the Verdiblancos‘ problems. All in all, it looks like the teams with technical quality, a deep squad, and, most importantly, mental toughness and clarity could be the biggest winners from this return. Only time will tell, though.
Lionel Messi’s love for football: Do what you love
Continuing with the lessons Lionel Messi has taught, this one is about: Loving what you do, wholeheartedly. Lionel Messi’s love for football shows he doesn’t belong to this planet. He owns what he loves which is a lesson for success for many.
Messi is an epitome of goodness that comes out from his love and passion for the game. The skills he displays on the football field were never displayed before and as per pessimists; might never be showcased in Camp Nou again. He is an ardent performer, a mad-keen footballer, a fervid player, and a zealous sportsman.
Football is deep-rooted in Lionel Andrés Messi. Nothing stopped him from pursuing his dreams and becoming one of the greatest footballers of this era. Do you ever wonder what made him chase his passion vehemently and achieve the goals successfully? The answer to this question is Lionel Messi’s love for football. He loves what he does and owns it candidly giving an important lesson to learn!
“What I do is play soccer, which is what I like.”
– Lionel Messi
When somebody loves what they do, the results are naturally exceptional. Messi, when exhibits his talent on the football pitch, his love for the game can be felt. The way he looks at the ball before scoring a tough goal demonstrates that every ounce of energy left in him will be devoted to this kick: it shows passion, fierceness, and commitment.
Messi’s love for the club
La Pulga’s love is not limited to the game alone, it is profoundly extended to the club he plays for: FC Barcelona. This love is symbiotic. Fc Barcelona is the main character in Messi’s story. Many people believe that Barcelona is nothing without Messi and Messi will be nothing without Barcelona.
Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images
Lionel Messi’s love for his club and the game made him the backbone of Cules. He worked enthusiastically to polish his skills and lift his team to incomparable greatness and dominance in the footballing world. Barcelona is not just a club for him, it is the platform that brought the best out of him. It is the stage where he performs and displays his supernatural talents. Given the fact that he left his home, his friends, and his country to come to an entirely different place and for the greatest club of that time teaches us a lesson that when you love something devotedly, it will come running to you. After signing his first contract on a used napkin, Barcelona’s number ten never looked back. Over the years, he set a legacy at Camp Nou to be followed for years to come.
A love story to cherish
It is the love for the game as well as for his team that Messi fervently gave all his talents and peak years to FC Barcelona. He is one of the very few footballers who can be labeled as a one-club man. Undeniably, there’s no team in the world that doesn’t want this ‘Alien’ in their team. Various clubs tried to break this inextricable relationship of Messi with Catalans by presenting tempting offers, but love won every time as the captain never for once pay heed to the criticism for wasting his time at Camp Nou whenever the club faced tough times.
Having said this, the unmatchable Leo & Barca love story has all the basic chronicles of an intense love affair; hurt, tragedy, tears, obstacles. Recent times made this love story a bit sour though, leaving the masses to suspect a potential breakup in the coming times. Conversely, keeping in view all that Leo has given up for Barca, fans are hopeful that the club will overlook its bad decisions to create an ideal situation for their talisman to stay. Well, hope is a dangerous thing, the only option for now!
What matters the most is no matter how crucial the circumstances are, the focus of Lionel Messi remains there and is proven in the 2019/2020 season. It was the worst season for the Barcelona star so far thus, the Alien magic still managed to break a couple of records leaving the fans in awe of him! This has been made possible because a thousand words can’t describe Messi’s love and faith in what he does which is why the Spanish dictionary included a new word: “Inmessionante” which means “1. A perfect way to play football, an unlimited capacity for self-improvement. 2. Describes the best player of all time.”
Hence, Lionel Andres Messi teaches all of us another lesson; do what you love having a firm belief in what you and when the circumstances are odd, do it more passionately with some extra love and faith. The world is out there to let us down, but the faith and passion of Lionel Messi is a beam of light for dark paths when the confidence is losing and belief is shaking.