When these two giants separated by a mere two points confront each other, it will be a thrilling contest. What do we think about this evening’s clash between Barça and Sevilla? Find out after the jump.
Sevilla is unbeaten up until tonight and Marcelino, having managed Sporting Gijon, Recreativo de Huelva, Real Zaragoza and Racing Santander over the last decade, has found a working strategy against a myriad of opponents. Sevilla’s strength lies in their wingers’ speed and the physical prowess of their strikers. This will work against them if they play possession football a la Barcelona, so they come out as a largely counter-attacking side. Pep himself said that Sevilla is the best counter attacking side in Spain after Real Madrid.
This is best enforced by their new signings Medel, Trochowski, and Manu del Moral in midfield and attack. In defense they signed Emir Spahic from Montpellier. These four players have featured highly in Sevilla’s fixtures this season. In matches against teams with better ball control or possession than them they usually put up a 4-4-1-1 counter attacking side with Manu as the link between the lone striker (Kanoute or Negredo) and the midfield. They have been pretty successful with this approach, with two draws against Villarreal and Atletico Madrid, and one win against Valencia.
So how will they fare against Barcelona? In contrast to other teams’ approach of parking a bus in front of the defence, I think Marcelino will not put his team in their shell just like that. Similar to the game against Valencia, if Barcelona isn’t careful and is sloppy with defense on the flanks this could be really ugly for Barcelona. On paper, this would not be a suitable opponent for a 3-4-3 formation. In fact, it’s just naive to be demanding the players to be tight on the flanks because in 3-4-3 there will be a lot of 2 vs 1 situations on the flank that will work against the blaugrana. Of course it can and will change to 3-4-3 at one point in the game, but I don’t think Barcelona will start with that approach.
Fabregas has been given the green light and with Iniesta on song in the last couple of matches, this news is the icing on the cake. But again defensively there might be a concern with Pique picking up a hamstring injury last week. So, players missing through injury is now limited to Alexis Sanchez, Gerard Pique, and Ibrahim Afellay.
Barcelona will choose a strong defender that can go toe-to-toe with Kanoute who is very likely to play, and with a trip to Granada coming in three days, Guardiola will want to use his three substitutions wisely. So, I expect Puyol and Abidal to play as the duet at center back accompanied by Maxwell and Alves. The trio midfield will feature Busquets, Xavi, and Iniesta with Fabregas and Keita as substitutions. In front the usual MVP will play, although there is a larger possibility that a rotation policy will be used here.
Predicted starting eleven: Valdes – Puyol – Abidal – Dani Alves – Maxwell – Busquets – Xavi – Iniesta – Messi – Villa – Pedro
Sevilla will sorely miss Negredo, but as they will most likely be using a lone striker supported by Manu anyway their approach won’t differ much. Sevilla will play 4-4-1-1 that will look like 4-2-3-1 on the defense, so it’s really going to be a tough defense to crack especially if Caceres is playing on their right side of defense.
Predicted starting eleven: Javi Varas – Escude – Spahic – Caceres – Navarro – Medel – Trochowski – Navas – Perotti – Manu – Kanoute
This will be a very important test for Barcelona for the squad depth and ability to unlock Sevilla’s tight defense without sacrificing too much space in our own defense. Barcelona will stay compact and Iniesta will once again prove to be very important to dismantle tough opponents such as this one. Expect a nervy affair if the 3-4-3 approach is employed. Enjoy the game.
Result Prediction: FC Barcelona 2 – Sevilla FC 1