Aside from Lionel Messi Barcelona’s defence has been their greatest strength this season. While Ernesto Valverde has been criticised for his cautious approach there’s no doubt he helped improve the backline which, for most of the season, was the meanest in La Liga.
However, since the international break the solid foundations the team was built upon have cracked a little and Barcelona have not managed a single clean sheet since returning to domestic action.
After a run of four games without conceding a single goal Barcelona have now conceded 10 in their last six games in all competitions, without a single clean sheet in sight.
There are mitigating factors of course, Sergio Busquets has been injured (and Ivan Rakitic too), while Gerard Pique has been playing through the pain barrier and Samuel Umtiti has suffered a little dip in form.
Valverde changed his defence for Tuesday’s trip to Celta and saw his back four of Nelson Semedo, Yerry Mina, Thomas Vermaelen and Lucas Digne concede twice. If it hadn’t been for Marc-Andre ter Stegen it probably would have been a few more.
Barcelona then return to La Liga action against Deportivo needing just six points to clinch the title but they could do with getting their defence back on track as they bid to do the double.
Valverde is expected to return to his favoured backline against Sevilla with Sergi Roberto (who should be eligible despite his red against Celta) stepping in for Nelson Semedo and Pique, Umtiti and Jordi Alba making up the back four in front of Jasper Cillessen.
The players will have had a week off and should have a bit more energy than we’ve seen in recent weeks and they’ll need it against a dangerous but highly unpredictable Sevilla side.
Vincenzo Montella’s men tend to create plenty of chances but can be wasteful in front of goal, and despite their recent run of form will be hugely motivated for this game.
Sevilla scored twice on their last visit to the Wanda Metropolitano, in a 2-1 win in the Copa del Rey, and will certainly cause Barcelona problems if they are lethargic as they have been the last couple of games.