What better way to start a new season than with a win. Barcelona did just that with a hard-fought victory at an always difficult venue against an always difficult opponent. Sevilla put up a very good fight, but Barcelona ultimately prevailed, scoring twice in the second half to earn an important two (away) goal advantage in the battle for the Spanish Super Cup. Barcelona's first goal of the season was scored by Luis Suarez, he was later joined on the goal-scoring chart by Munir El Haddadi.
Barcelona started their first competitive game of the new 2016-17 season with a familiar-faced lineup. Claudio Bravo started in goal, with Sergi Roberto, Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano and Jeremy Mathieu forming a back-four. Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitić and Andres Iniesta manned the midfield, Lionel Messi, Suarez and Arda Turan started in attack. With Dani Alves now at Juventus, Neymar at the Olympic Games, and Marc-Andre ter Stegen injured it was an expected eleven. The only real surprise came at left-back where Mathieu replaced the injured Jordi Alba and not newcomer Lucas Digne.
Barcelona kicked off the match from midfield and quickly started to assert their attacking play. Sevilla defended solidly and looked to create chances from counter attacks, but it was Barcelona who threatened first. Busquets brilliantly found Suarez in a soft spot in the heart of the Sevilla defense and the Uruguayan went alone on goal. Lest season's Pichichi winner picked his spot, low to Sergio Rico's right, but the young Spaniard made the excellent diving stop.
Teams exchanged more or less harmless attacks over the next 15 minutes before Barcelona threatened again in the 23rd minute. It was a golden opportunity for the Catalans, but on the four-on-one attack Messi made a mistake in possession and offside was called. Four minutes later Barcelona suffered a blow as Mathieu was forced to the ground with an apparent right hamstring injury. He was quickly replaced by Digne, which marked the young Frenchman's official debut.
Shortly after Mathieu was forced off the pitch, Iniesta suffered a nasty challenge from Mariano. Iniesta was clearly in pain, holding his knee, and even sideline treatment did him no good. He tried to continue, but was clearly uncomfortable and limping heavily. In the 36th minute Lucho was forced into his second substitution of the match, this time brining Denis Suarez on for Iniesta.
With Iniesta now off the pitch, Barcelona lost the midfield motor that held Sevilla from controlling the ball and controlling the game. It was quickly clear that Barcelona's possession game suffered without Iniesta and Sevilla tried to exploit the Catalans' misfortune. Sevilla launched the occasional attack earlier in the game, but their best offensive play came after Iniesta was forced off the pitch. The hosts threatened numerous times from the half hour mark until about the 40th minute, but while Barcelona's defense bent, it didn't break and Bravo was rarely called into action and didn't need to make a save.
As the first half reached its dying stages and Denis found his bearings, Sevilla didn't threaten as much anymore, and Barcelona started to spend time in Sevilla's zone again, but neither team managed to break the deadlock in the injury-riddled first half.
Barcelona started the second half in very calm fashion and was able to control the midfield and threaten early. The first chance came in the 49th minute when Denis found Luis with an accurate long cross from the left side. Luis was able to head the ball on target but Rico was perfectly positioned to make the save.
The Suarez duo would be in the thick of it again in the 55th minute, but this time Barcelona would take the lead. Denis sent a very Iniesta-esque over the top ball to the rushing Arda who chested the ball into the path of Luis. This time the Uruguayan made no mistake, slotting the ball past Rico for the one-goal advantage. Barcelona had a very good chance to make it 2-0 just two minutes later as Messi was played through after some excellent close-quarters passing, but Rico read Messi's intentions perfectly, stopping the chip shot with authority. In the 63rd minute Roberto unleashed a powerful shot from the edge but Rico stopped that shot as well.
With time running out and Jorge Sampaoli making several personnel and tactical changes to make Sevilla much more attacking oriented, Barcelona dropped deeper and calmly waited for their chances on the counter-attack. The defense looked shaky at times but continuously made the play that was necessary to clear the danger. One player that consistently showed composure and excellent positional awareness was Digne, who on numerous occasions stopped Sevilla's attacks.
Barcelona made their final, and first non-injury related, substitution in the 77th minute when Munir El Haddadi took the place of Arda. The substitution had almost immediate effect as just four minutes after entering the pitch, Munir opened his scoring account. Messi made a brilliant through pass to a wide open Munir, who finished off the play with the outside part of his left boot to double Barcelona's lead.
The second goal took almost all the wind out of Sevilla's sails and the Andalusians struggled to get anything going in the remainder of the game. With ease Barcelona stopped Sevilla's halfhearted attempts. Barcelona would create the last scoring chance of the game, with Messi taking a powerful shot from just inside the penalty area, but Rico was once again there to make the save. After two minutes of added time referee Jesus Gil Manzano brought proceedings to an end.
Barcelona will look to hold on to the advantage earned at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán in the second leg on Wednesday. The game will be played in Barcelona, but it will come with a very late kickoff - the game will start at 11pm local time.