After a fairly routine victory against Arsenal on Tuesday, Barcelona travel to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan for a tough match versus Sevilla.
Enough has been said about Tuesday that this hugely important game has somewhat gone under the radar. Currently in 8th position Sevilla are not carrying the threat of previous seasons, but their home form remains good with 24 of their 38 points coming at home.
Then again, with Barcelona currently on 12 wins and 1 draw away from the Camp Nou, you could argue that Sevilla will be another routine win for this phenomenal side.
I am not so sure.
The Blaugrana have been less than convincing recently and the match against Arsenal was no different in my opinion. The team pressured the Gunners well and this was good to see, but the wastefulness in front of goal continued.
Almunia was credited with saving no less than 8 one on ones on Tuesday. Now one can’t help but think that Messi and Villa are usually better than that when presented with a clear opportunity.
Though as I write this, I should bring you back to the first half of the season and the 30th of October.
Barcelona were heading into the game in 3rd place and after a series of unconvincing results. The score in that match versus Sevilla?
Messi got 2, Villa got 2 and Dani Alves scored the other. Including the 2 previous games, it started the run of 16 straight wins in the league which included the 8-0 thrashing of Almeria and the historic 5-0 humiliation of Real Madrid.
So, all bodes well for Sunday then.
Against Arsenal, I can complain about wastefulness, but the truth is that Pep’s side are still creating a huge amount of chances every single game, and it’s only a matter of time until these chances are put away more often. Messi has 45 in all competitions and a hat-trick (however unlikely it is) at the weekend will see him surpass Ronaldo’s record of 47 in a season. And it’s only March.
That should be motivation enough and as for the rest of the side, Real could have reduced our lead at the top to 4 points by kick-off and bringing that back up to 7 is sure to be objective number one. If Barca want to break records along the way, well, I won’t stop them.
However, this is not Arsenal. Sevilla will manage a shot, and with Luis Fabiano and Kanoute up front, they have a strike-force with 19 goals (of the team’s 41) between them.
Negredo is a more than able substitute and his 10 league goals show you how threatening Sevilla can be. On the other hand, it also shows a weakness, in that if you stop those players you are more than halfway to a win. So when considering the setup Sevilla are likely to take, Pique (who returns into the defence) and Abidal will only have to deal with 1 or 2 of them.
Barca will also have Busquets back in his usual holding midfield position and even if they choose to rest him, they will have Mascherano there to break down any attacks in the midfield.
I think that the passing game will prove too much for Sevilla, but only after a tough encounter against high-quality opponents.
My prediction: 3-1 with goals from Messi (2) and Iniesta.
Last but no means least, a quick reminder about the earthquake in Japan, and how our thoughts are with the people affected.