Sevilla-Barcelona Preview: They’re Back!By: kage | September 27th, 2012
This is not one of those Trap Game, those games where everyone and his brother knows Barca is going to win, so they’d better be careful…. Hell no. This one, against Sevilla away, is a full-fledged Test against an excellent team. So make no mistake: this is one game that is probably 50-50 at best. Because… they’re back.
Last year this correspondent previewed a Sevilla game with the abiding theme that the Sevilla just wasn’t what she used to be. They were hardly scoring, and sinking fast in the tables. I voiced the opinion that they would not be able to score on Barca. And sure enough they did not. But at the Camp Nou Sevilla came out with a bunker mentality – and an incredible show of goalkeeping from Andres Palop – that resulted in a 0-0 draw.
This season Sevilla has regained at least some of the attacking verve that made them an admirable (as well as fearsome) side in the days of Dani Alves. They’re not all the way back; they only have six goals in five Liga matches. But their defense remains a locked door: Palop’s net has bulged only twice in those five contests. They have Alvaro Negredo, their excellent Spanish international striker, in a scoring humor, and Jesus Navas, the slender little winger (with astonishing Malamute-blue eyes), who will be trouble for either Adriano (slightly injured) or Alba down Barca’s left flank.
And then there’s an excellent set of midfielders from Croatia (Rakitic), Holland (Maduro), Trochowski (Germany), and the fierce Chilean defensive midfielder, Gary Medel. Medel’s a bit of a wild card in the Pele mode – he’s not the animal that Pele is, but he might hurt somebody, fetch a red card or give up a penalty. He also might bother the crap out of Messi with small fouls every time La Pulga has the ball. Let’s hope very fervently he doesn’t do this:
The Sevilla team that went into a shell and came out with a draw at Camp Nou is, fortunately, gone this year. They’ve had more success – winning their past two games, an impressive 2-0 win over Deportivo away and an even more impressive 1-0 win over Real Madrid.
But success is not the only measure of a football team. This year, Sevilla comes to play. In the win against the Evil Empire, Real had more possession, but the win was no accident. Especially early on, Sevilla pressed all over the field, went into every duel, and worked their collective shorts off. It’s the kind of tactic that Barca has faced before… and failed to overcome before (the recent Supercopa return leg against Real Madrid being the best example.) It’s also the kind of tactic that inevitably must wind down, since no team can play that kind of all-or-nothing cutthroat game for 90 minutes. When you do it, you need to get some results early.
But wait. Let’s see. Can you get an early score against Barca? Valencia did it at home against Barca last year, and went ahead 2-0 early — the eventual result being a 2-2 draw. Real Madrid did it a few weeks ago and went ahead 2-0 – the eventual result being a 2-1 Madrid win (with an asterisk: Barca was down to ten men).
It’s enough to worry a worried man, and both Pique and Puyol are still out with injuries. We like Alex Song, or at least some of us do, but as a center back…. well, let’s hear what a noted authority would say about this. One Barca player said that, “ We would obviously be stronger with Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique.” That player was… Alex Song.
What Barca needs to be able to do (at least occasionally) is break the pressure swiftly and attack the opponent’s goal right away. They have guys like Messi, Villa, and Alexis, all of whom can score in a more open field than they usually get. But that would be going against the part of Barca’s evolution that this writer finds frustrating: their ever-increasing insistence on bringing the ball up slowly, through the proper channels. Our team seems to insist that Tika must lead to Taka; Busquets must pass it at least three times to Xavi by the time Barca reaches the last third of the field, and Xavi must kindly reciprocate, or the world will implode. Teams that press Barca never get punished. Barca, instead, does this:
It seems odd to say about a team that has 15 points in 5 matches, but Barca hasn’t been playing well. History does offer us one soothing lesson: when Barcelona has the same rest before a match as the other team, they tend to do well; when they have a solid week between matches, they tend to do well. And both of those conditions are true in this case. Even so, the elements at the Sánchez Pizjuán make for a stormy day: a packed and ravenous crowd (35,000) imploring a fast, aggressive, and skillful team, which will exert scads of upfield pressure early on.
If Barca can hold on for the first 30 minutes, they should win. If Barca can make the most of their chances, they should win. But I don’t think they will. I think they lose 2-1. Early goals by Negredo, Rakitic , and a late one from Alexis. And then a draw at Benfica.
Sorry! But at least you heard it here first.
Sevilla: Andrés Palop; Fernando Navarro, Emir Spahic, Cicinho, Alberto Botía; Gary Medel, , Piotr Trochowski, Hedwiges Maduro, Ivan Rakitic, Jesús Navas; Álvaro Negredo,
Barcelona: Valdes; Alves, Mascherano, Song, Alba; Busquets, Xavi, Cesc; Villa, Messi, Alexis.