Sampaoli, the new head coach for Sevilla, stated on the pre-match presser he is looking to control the ball more and imprint more of his style of football on Sevilla, and not wait back for Barcelona to attack them. He has already been hugely successful with the Chilean National Team. It will be interesting to see what he can make of this Sevilla team. Sevilla, while enjoying some of its best football in recent years, has suffered the loss of key players such as Krychowiak, Gameiro, Banega, Coke, Reyes, and Llorente, not to mention the heavy loss of head coach Unai Emery.
The starting eleven for both teams are as follows:
For Sevilla: Rico in goal, Mariano, Rami, Mercado, Escudero, N’Zonzi, Kranevitter, Kiyotake, Vasquez, Vitolo, and Vietto as the lone forward.
For Barcelona: Bravo, S. Roberto, Pique, Mascherano, Mathieu, Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta, Messi, Suarez, Turan.
Interesting starting eleven for Lucho. Many were expecting Digne to be chosen over Mathieu for this match, and perhaps a starting spot for one of the new acquisitions from the club. Turan also received the nod from the skipper to start as the third forward ahead from Munir. Lucho seeming to show Turan some trust, which the Turkish national has to take advantage of, as Lucho has shown no hesitation in benching a big-name player when he is underperforming.
True to his word, Sampaoli’s men started the game with constant pressing, not allowing opposing players from enjoying any time on the ball. Both teams were keen on keeping possession and attacking with the ball. The resulting pressure from both sides led to many erratic passes, which resulted in little action in the opening five minutes of the engagement.
First chance came almost at the six minute mark at the feet of Luis Suarez. After a lovely control, he deftly turned towards goal, but his chance was stopped by the Sevilla net minder. It seemed like Luisito didn’t get as much on the ball as he probably would have wanted. Six minutes in, and Barcelona seemed to be controlling the ball more than the opposition, yet it would not last. Since about the 10 minute mark, Sevilla started dominating possession, and would not relinquish their dominance for a very long stretch of the game. Barcelona were still showing some rust, showing their lack of minutes played. Their play wasn’t quite as fluid as to what we’ve become used.
Before half an hour of the game was in the books, Mathieu seemed to suffer an injury and was not able to continue, which opened the door for the French youngster to enter the game. Not the ideal way one would have hoped Lucas Digne made his debut.
Sevilla continued to control possession of the ball, yet they had nothing to show for it. While able to penetrate Barcelona’s defense down both flanks, the crosses that were played into the box found no target.
What seemed an inconsequential knock on the knee for Iniesta resulted in the Captain coming off and Dennis Suarez entering the match. Hopefully, it proves to be nothing substantial and Iniesta returns to the playing field quickly. Two injuries from Barcelona in 35 minutes. Messi became the captain on the field after Iniesta’s departure.
Play continued for the remaining minutes of the first half in much the same manner, and there were no more dangerous opportunities for either team.
Starting the second half, and before 50 minutes are played, Suarez has had two excellent chances, but Sevilla’s assiduous defense prevented the bullish forward from scoring. Despite the great effort from the locals, Barcelona’s continuous pressure in attack would pay off. Luisito Suarez would score an absolute stunner after a gorgeous play between Dennis, and Arda. The youngster played a ball into the area, which Turan controlled with his chest in a masterful pass for Suarez, who finished the play with aplomb.
The goal seemed to breathe new life into the Cules, as the players were gaining possession with more frequency and transitioning into attack. Less than a couple of minutes after the first goal, Rico prevented the second goal from Barcelona at the feet of Lio Messi. The Sevilla net minder had an absolute gem of a game, adroitly turning away many clear cut chances. It is appropriate to say that while Arda Turan’s first half was rather disappointing, he showed his mettle on the second half. Hopefully, he continues to improve and provides Lucho with the best kind of headache, as he tries to choose starting elevens.
After 72 minutes, Sevilla started to exhibit some exhaustion on the ball after the commendable effort of pressing for the entire game, which in turn opened more attacking lanes for Barcelona. Having just entered the game for Arda, Munir finished with tremendous quality after moving brilliantly without the ball and receiving a pass from Lio Messi. He exhibited tremendous composure before goal, and against a goalkeeper that was having a tremendous match.
Sergi Roberto had a solid game on the right flank, and Digne controlled his side with cool composure. Dennis Suarez went from better to worse as the game continued, but in no way played a bad match, showing some of the spark that makes him a solid signing for Barcelona.
All in all, a solid game from the Blaugranes with still substantial room for improvement. Hopefully, as players continue getting into the rhythm of the season, some of the rust showed in the game will slough off