FC Barcelona's Next Opposition: Sevilla FC (La Liga Scouting Report)

David Villa scored a dramatic winner last time against Sevilla, and he could be back. - Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno

Barcelona continue a difficult stretch, having little time to dwell on the shocking loss to AC Milan in the Champions League. Sevilla are a strong opponent, having troubled Barca and beaten Real Madrid in Andalusia, but they do not possess a great away record.

FC Barcelona saved their worst performance of the season for the worst possible time, losing 2-0 to AC Milan. But the schedule waits for no one, and there are key matches to be played in the league and in the cup against Sevilla and Real Madrid.

Sevilla themselves are wary of a midweek cup match in four days as they try to revert a 2-1 loss against Atletico de Madird. The Sevillistas will return to their home fortress, the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium, and try to find the right result to progress into the cup final to meet either Real Madrid or Barcelona.

Los Rojiblancos are an important team in Spanish football history, having won the league once and the Copa del Rey five times. In 2009-10, Sevilla became the first team to eliminate a Pep Guardiola team from any competition. After defeating Barca on away goals, Los Rojiblancos went on to claim the cup themselves.

In 2005-06 and 2006-07, Sevilla made history winning the UEFA Cup twice in a row. They also claimed the 2006 Super Cup, soundly defeating Barcelona 3-0.

With both teams looking to arguably more important contests in the cup, who will have the mental fortitude, not to mention the squad depth, to take the three points?

Form

Sevilla are in pretty good form, despite the key loss in the cup. In fact, they have won all of their last six games except two - and those two were away to Atletico Madrid and away to Real Madrid. It's quite difficult for any team to get those results.

In all other games, they have outscored opponents 12-2. Impressive, but there is one caveat. All those matches were at home, and there is no team in La Liga whose quality suffers away from their turf as much as they do. Sevilla have won one match away, compared to the eight victories at home in the league.

Barcelona remain undefeated at home across all competitions, while Sevilla have not won away in nine league away matches. Sevilla have also conceded at least two goals in eight of their past nine away matches, while Barcelona have scored four or more in four of their past five home matches.

Key Players

Alvaro Negredo continues to attract attention from big teams across Europe, as he again spearheads Sevilla's attack. With 10 league goals, Negredo is tied for eighth in the La Liga scoring charts.

Ivan Rakitic is the playmaker, and the Croatian international has racked up six assists in the league, first on the team. His five goals are second to Negredo, while he's also first in the key passes stat with 2.8 per game

Jesus Navas has made his mark with the Spanish national team (he initiated the attack that resulted in Andres Iniesta's World Cup winning goal) and thus attracted contract offers from all across Europe. However, he may never leave Andalusia as he suffers from severe homesickness.

In any case, the winger remains a key engine of Los Rojiblancos. With three assists and three goals, Navas is another man to watch.

In defense, Emir Spahic and Cicinho have started to gain plaudits. Spahic is strong in the air but also a good passer, while Cicinho is a good dribbler yet he also has good tackling technique.

Cicinho is yet another Brazilian fullback who is known for his attacking prowess, but he's not bad defensively, either. This season, he, along with Jesus Navas, went up against Real Madrid's left flank featuring Cristiano Ronaldo and won.

Strategy

Sevilla should play in their base 4-2-3-1 formation, with an emphasis on countering down either side of the pitch. They will need their midfield players to perform a great shift in the middle of the park to stifle the Blaugrana passing attack.

Sevilla like to play wide and attack down the flanks. With the services of Navas and Jose Antonio Reyes, not to mention Cicinho and Fernando Navarro at the fullback positions, Sevilla are dangerous on the wings. Standing at 6'1'', Negredo is a good target to aim for, and he's shown he can finish off chances with his head.

However, the coach Unai Emery has a few decisions to make with an eye on the upcoming cup match. Some players will need to be rotated. The question is: will Emery field a strong team, given the quality of the opposition? Or will he attempt to cut his losses and focus on the cup match primarily?

Lineup

Andres Palop, a former Spain international, is doubtful in goal. With Diego Lopez sold off to Real Madrid, Beto should be in charge of the away side's goal. Beto came on loan from SC Braga after the Andalusians sold Lopez, and he's had little time to acclimate himself. Still, he's put in good showings so far - though some question his ability to deal with crosses.

In defense, Spahic is injured which means Federico Fazio and former Barca player Alberto Botia should start in defense. At right-back, Coke could deputize for Cicinho, while Alberto Moreno is Navarro's rotation option.

Gary Medel, coming off a brace against Deportivo, should take up a spot in midfield. The Chilean is a rough tackler, and he will be even madder than usual, as he feels he was unfairly sent off in the last meeting between the sides. Geoffrey Kondogbia would then take the other spot in the center of the pitch, though Hedwiges Maduro is a possibility.

Piotr Trochowski remains on a long-term injury (his last match was against Barcelona in the previous round) and with Diego Perotti out as well, Sevilla have limited options down the flanks. If they want to rest Reyes or Navas, Manu del Moral could play.

Rakitic should then take the place behind the main striker, though hypothetically Reyes or del Moral could play there, too. There is a possibility that Sevilla could go 4-3-3, with a more conservative midfield trio of Maduro, Kondogbia, and Medel, Negredo should then be the frontman, though hypothetically Baba could spell him.

Conclusion

Sevilla have talent - the likes of Negredo, Navas, and Rakitic are in the sights of the big teams across Europe. Still, like Navas, they seem to get a little homesick. Away from the Sanchez Pizjuan, they have been a little uneasy.

Barcelona are at home and they're mad. They want to put the poor results behind them, but they also have to consider the big games coming up. Resting key players, are they perhaps vulnerable to the challenge? Or will they produce yet another vintage performance?

Possible XI (4-2-3-1): Beto; Coke, Fazio, Botia, Navarro; Medel, ;Kondogbia; Navas, Rakitic, Reyes; Negredo


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