Barca and los Nervionenses take centre stage in Spain this week as the two giants collide...
Barcelona have been widely regarded as a side not playing to their true potential in the early weeks of the Primera Division season. If they are to avoid slipping up at home once again, they will have to raise their level to defeat a Sevilla side capable of upsetting them.
The rise of Real Madrid under Jose Mourinho should be considered a cause for anxiety at Camp Nou. Already los Blancos enjoy a one-point advantage over their great rivals, and Pep Guardiola will be keen that such an advantage is not any greater when the two sides clash on the last weekend of November.
Barca’s raw results cannot be faulted. Guardiola’s men have won five of their last six Primera Division matches and set a new club record last weekend by defeating Zaragoza away from home, ensuring that they won their first four road games – the club’s best start ever in that respect. But there has been a lack of decisiveness in la Blaugrana’s play.
Guardiola’s men are used to winning games with ease, scoring four, five or even six goals in the process. This term, they’ve only won once by more than two strikes, and the goals are not flowing as they have done in the last two campaigns.
Of course, there’s no reason to panic while Barca are still winning, and they kept their impressive run going by defeating Ceuta 2-0 in the Copa del Rey on Tuesday evening, despite playing with a largely fringe side. Against los Nervionenses, la Blaugrana will have to raise their level above the mundane.
Sevilla have been a somewhat unpredictable beast in the early weeks of the season, and even a change of coaching hasn’t yet been able to shake off the erratic results they have suffered. From losses against Hercules and Sporting de Gijon to a tremendous success over Atletico Madrid, los Nervionenses have already experienced a whole range of emotions this season, so they cannot be written off even against Barcelona.
While Camp Nou has been an intimidating venue for most over the duration of Pep Guardiola’s reign, Sevilla can travel to the giant stadium holding out hope of a positive result having won 2-1 at the venue early in 2010 on Copa del Ray duty. On their last trip to the arena, in the Supercopa de Espana, they were whipped 4-0 however.
Incredibly, this will be the sixth meeting of these sides in less than 10 months. Since los Nervionenses’ win in the Catalan capital, they have played again in the Copa del Rey, twice in the Supercopa and this will be their second time in the league. Sevilla’s record holds up at a commendable two wins to the three of Barca.
After nearly squandering a giant advantage against Athletic Bilbao last weekend in a 4-3 victory, Sevilla steadied themselves with an easy 4-0 first leg success over Real Union in the Copa on Wednesday evening. Coach Gregorio Manzano was impressed with the authoritative nature of his side’s performance, yet they will have to go up a step if they are to overcome Barca for a third time this year.
It’s largely been a week of good news for Pep Guardiola, who saw both Xavi and Gabriel Milito return to his panel on Thursday. The one piece of negative news for la Blaugrana is that Jeffren will be missing for around a month due to a back problem acquired against Ceuta.
Jesus Navas and Federico Fazio are still reportedly recovering from their respective injury problems and won’t be ready to feature, though the winger could play in midweek against Karpaty. Goalkeeper Andres Palop is certainly sidelined, while Tiberio Guarente has undergone tests on his right knee. Fernando Navarro, who is suspended, has an ankle issue, as does Lautaro Acosta, but neither is expected to be seriously troubled by their respective problems.