Sevilla host Barcelona at Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán on Saturday evening in La Liga. Both sides are in very strong league form but the visitors have been struggling in cup matches. The hosts will want to win to keep their push for Champions League qualification going strong whilst Barca trail Atletico Madrid by five points and need a victory or their league hopes could start to fade away. A home win could take Julen Lopetegui’s charges back into the thick of the title race. These sides face each other twice in five days with a cup semi-final next Wednesday.
Since losing to Atletico Madrid in January, Sevilla have won six La Liga matches in a row with clean sheets in five of those. They won 2-0 at Osasuna in their last match as Diego Carlos and Luuk de Jong scored the goals.
In the cup competitions, they have had mixed results. A first leg home victory over Barcelona in the Coppa del Rey semi-final was a big result with the return leg in early March. However, in the Champions League, they were beaten 3-2 at home by Dortmund in their round of 16 first-leg tie.
Sevilla Team News
Sevilla have two serious injuries to contend with as super adventurous left back Marcos Acuna is absent, as is inside forward Lucas Ocampos. Julen Lopetegui can either select an attacking fullback in Sergio Escudero to replace Acuna or go with a converted centre back in Karim Rekik.
In midfield, Ivan Rakitic could be left out. He was taken off at half time against Dortmund and was only a substitute against Osasuna but he will hope to face his former club. Luuk de Jong will also be hoping to lead the line.
Sevilla’s recent run of wins in the league has them in fourth place with seven points and a game in hand over Real Sociedad. They are only two points behind Barcelona and seven behind log leaders Atletico Madrid so a victory could put them back into the title race.
However, a draw would not be a terrible result as their overall season ambitions would be Champions League qualification. They can afford to sit back somewhat and look to pick off Barcelona on transitions. When they beat them in the Coppa del Rey recently they scored from a set play and that could be an area to target the Catalan giants.
Ronald Koeman’s side haven’t been in the best form of late. After their humiliating 3-0 home defeat to Juventus in December, they have certainly put together a strong run in La Liga with 11 wins and three draws in their last 14 matches.
In the cup competitions, they have been struggling. In January, they lost the Spanish Super Cup to Atletic Bilbao and in February they lost their Coppa del Rey semi final 1st leg to Sevilla and were humbled 4-1 at home in the Champions League by PSG.
Their last two games saw them draw 1-1 with Cadiz after conceding late (with Koeman calling it an even more disappointing performance than against PSG) and then a 3-0 home win against Elche. Lionel Messi scored twice and Jordi Alba once.
Barcelona Team News
Barcelona continue to be without Ansu Fati on the wing and Philippe Coutinho in midfield due to long term knee injuries. Sergi Roberto is also missing as an option at right back or in central midfield.
Koeman rested Clement Lenglet at centre back against Elche to protect him from suspension for this game. With Samuel Umtiti fit again, there are finally some options in that area for the coach. Antoine Griezmann and Sergio Busquets were only substitutes in that game to keep them fresh for Sevilla.
Barcelona are five points off Atletico Madrid and have played a game more so this is really a must-win match or their title chances will take a major hit. Koeman will know the threat that Sevilla pose between the lines with Suso and Papu Gomez and maybe have Busquets sitting very deep with Frenkie De Jong alongside him.
A draw would be a bad result but Barca can’t be too gung ho or they will be picked off on the break as PSG were able to do.
Sevilla have won 6 La Liga matches in a row
Sevilla have won their last 7 home matches in domestic competitions with
6 clean sheets
Sevilla have 1 won and 2 draws in their last 3 matches against Barcelona
Barcelona have lost 2 of their last 5 matches in all competitions (W2, D1)
Barca have won 11 and drawn 3 of their last 14 La Liga matches
Barca have kept 1 clean sheet in their last 5 La Liga matches (1 in 9 – all comps)
Barca have seen over 2.5 goals in 7 of their last 9 matches (all comps)
This game could go any of three ways. However, Sevilla look to be in generally better form than Barcelona despite both sides losing at home in the Champions League last week. Going for a home win is good value and could be the best available bet considering the recent results of the two sides.