Sports Mole brings you the team news, predicted lineups and a full match preview of Saturday’s La Liga clash between Barcelona and Sevilla.
Sevilla have stormed to the top of the table with four straight wins, and currently sit one point and one position above reigning champions Barcelona.
Barcelona did not really need to break a sweat in La Liga last term. Indeed, the Catalan giants lost just one of their 38 matches, winning 28 times, to storm to the title. They finished 14 points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid, and were rightly installed as the favourites to retain the title.
It has not quite been the start to the season that the fans would have expected, however, with the 25-time Spanish champions dropping points in four of their eight league matches this term. They are actually without a win in their last four in the top flight, which has led to criticism of head coach Ernesto Valverde.
Valverde led Barcelona to a La Liga and Copa del Rey double in his first season at the club, but his long-term future is very much undecided. Indeed, the 54-year-old will be out of contract at the end of this season, and neither he nor the club have made a move to activate an extension.
Barcelona’s last La Liga win was a 2-1 success at Real Sociedad on September 15. Since then, they have drawn with Girona, Athletic Bilbao and Valencia, in addition to suffering a 2-1 defeat at Leganes. Even early in the season when Barcelona were winning, the performances were not quite there.
In another season, the team’s slow start to the campaign might well have left them with ground to make up. Both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have had their issues this term, however, and Barcelona are just one point off the top of the division entering this weekend’s clash with Sevilla.
In terms of what is ahead for the Catalan giants, they have the small matter of El Clasico at home to Real Madrid next weekend, but will also host Inter Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday night. Valverde’s side are two from two in Europe this term, and will be looking to take a firm control of the section with a victory against the Italian giants on October 24.
Barcelona have drawn their last two La Liga matches on home soil, but are unbeaten in Camp Nou in the league since September 2016, and will be looking to return to winning ways against a very dangerous Sevilla team.
Recent form: WWDLDD
Recent form (all competitions): WDLDWD
Now under the leadership of exciting young manager Pablo Machin, Sevilla have made serious waves in La Liga this season. Indeed, only Barcelona (19) have scored more goals (18) than Sevilla in the league this term, and the White and Reds currently sit top of the division ahead of the clash at Camp Nou.
There is every chance that Sevilla will be knocked off the summit before kickoff due to the fact that Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid are both in action on Saturday afternoon, but for the moment at least, first position belongs to Sevilla.
Machin’s side opened their 2018-19 La Liga campaign with a 4-1 victory at Rayo Vallecano, before drawing with Villarreal, and losing to both Real Betis and Getafe in their next two. At that point, question marks were being asked about a team that finished seventh in Spain’s top flight last term.
Sevilla put six goals past Levante in Valencia on September 23, however, before recording a 3-0 home win over Real Madrid three days later. Since then, Sevilla have beaten Eibar and Celta Vigo to move onto 16 points in the division.
Andre Silva – on loan from AC Milan – has seven La Liga goals to his name this season, and the 22-year-old has formed a strong relationship with Wissam Ben Yedder, who has five top-flight strikes to his name this term.
Jesus Navas also appears to have found a second wind this season, and Machin’s new system, which features three central defenders and wing-backs, is certainly capable of upsetting Barcelona at Camp Nou this weekend.
That said, Sevilla have only been victorious in one of their last five La Liga matches with Barcelona, and have lost on their last six league visits to Camp Nou, which is an indication of the size of their task on Saturday night.
Recent form: LLWWWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWWWLW
Barcelona will once again be without the services of Samuel Umtiti, meaning that Clement Lenglet is expected to start against the club that he left during the summer, with Thomas Vermaelen also ruled out of action.
Valverde has decisions to make further forward when it comes to the position of Philippe Coutinho. Indeed, the Brazilian will start in a front three if Arthur is included, but would drop back if Ousmane Dembele came into the XI.
Luis Suarez did not represent Uruguay during the recent international break for family reasons, and was able to receive treatment on a troubling knee problem. The striker’s form has been questioned this season, but he will again start here.
As for Sevilla, Gabriel Mercado is still on the sidelines with a fractured arm, but head coach Machin has no fresh injury concerns.
Ben Yedder and Silva will again start as the front two, although there could be alterations in the five behind as Aleix Vidal pushes for a start against his former club.
Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Arthur; Coutinho, Suarez, Messi
Sevilla possible starting lineup:
Vaclik; Gomes, Kjaer, Carrico; Vidal, Banega, Vasquez, Sarabia, Navas; Ben Yedder, Silva
Head To Head
Barcelona and Sevilla have already met this season, with the former recording a 2-1 win in the Spanish Super Sup back in August.
Sevilla have not actually avoided defeat at Camp Nou in the league since October 2011, losing on each of their last six visits to Barcelona.
We say: Barcelona 2-1 Sevilla
Sevilla have been excellent in recent weeks, while Barcelona will be a little short on confidence. We fancy the home win this weekend, however, with Lionel Messi inspiring his team to all three points at Camp Nou.