The last game before a two-week international break brings one of the toughest fixtures of any La Liga season for Barcelona, a trip to the Andalusia for a match against Sevilla. The Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán visit will certainly be difficult, and the Blaugrana need to be at their best to maintain their position near the top of the table.
Lionel Messi won't be there this time, so we won't have his usual "I'm going to destroy Sevilla again" games. We also won't have Andrés Iniesta and his magical touches to find spaces in a very compact and well-trained defense, nor Rafinha Alcântara to break down the opposition with his effort and talent. These three injuries are gigantic for this game especially, and coach Luis Enrique will have to be smart about his selections in order to leave Seville with a victory. However, against a side that scores a lot of goals, Lucho will have a more than important return: Claudio Bravo is expected to come back from his injury, which is very good news.
Here's a projection of what his lineup might look like on Saturday:
Alves - Piqué - Mascherano - Alba
Rakitic - Busquets - Roberto
Munir - Suárez - Neymar
Sergi Roberto proved himself as a midfielder under the enormous pressure of Tuesday's game against Bayer Leverkusen. Nobody expected anything good from him in that position, but he changed the match with his verticality and effort. Lucho likes to go with the hot hand, which probably means that Roberto plays from the first whistle. Jordi Alba must return to the defense since Mathieu has been horrible as a left-back, with the center-back pairing and the right-back staying the same as Tuesday. And, if Bravo returns, the defense instantly looks better. Don't you fell more safe when you see the Chilean's name there? Me too.
In the attack, Suárez and Neymar will start, and Munir El-Haddadi is likely to win the race for the third spot in the attack with a very good form as of late. Can he continue to show that he has what it takes to be the next Pedro and/or a key 'MSN' backup? Saturday will be a good test.
We asked our community to pick their favorite starting lineup, and this was your choice:
4-3-3: Ter Stegen; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba; Busquets, Rakitic, Roberto; Munir, Suárez, Neymar Jr.
That's the same! Ter Stegen is your starting keeper, but Bravo was still doubtful yesterday, so I think your selection would be different had his name been on the form.
And these are the Rojiblancos expected to start
Coke - Kolodziejczak - Andreolli - Trémoulinas
N'Zonzi - Krychowiak
Reyes - Iborra - Konoplyanka
The two biggest question marks regard the attackers. Vitolo and Fernando Llorente are running out of time to recover from injury, but they could surprise everyone and appear on Saturday. As of right now, however, the most logical choice in terms of match fitness is to use Kevin Gameiro and Yevhen Konoplyanka. Both of them scored on the memorable 5-4 game in the UEFA Super Cup, so they certainly deserve a lot of attention even though they're now reserves. Don't forget Ciro Immobile, who can also feature as a striker.
Unai Emery, as does Enrique, has plenty of injury problems to deal with. Seven players are definitely out, most of them on defense and midfield, which forces him to use mostly the same players that appeared in the 2-0 loss to Juventus in European Cup duty a few days ago. The only doubt at midfield is between Iborra and Krohn-Dehli, but the former is a better attacking option for a team playing at home against a shaky Barça defense.
Even though the Sevillistas have had a horrible start to the season, they're certainly stepping up their level of intensity and play against Barça, and we should expected the usual tough game.