Barcelona have a massive hill to climb in the second leg next week as the Catalans will have to overturn a 2-0 deficit against a strong Sevilla side to advance to the next round. A different-look Blaugrana couldn’t handle the always tough Sevilla at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán as the hosts took a healthy aggregate lead through Pablo Sarabia and Wissam Ben Yedder second half goals.
Rotation in the Copa del Rey continued for Barcelona as Ernesto Valverde even against a powerhouse like Sevilla sent out a very surprising XI. Both Nelson Semedo and Sergi Roberto started on the flanks of the usual center-backs, the former on the left side. In midfield Ivan Rakitić and Arthur were joined by Arturo Vidal. In attack Kevin-Prince Boateng made his Barcelona debut alongside Malcom and Carles Alena, the latter featuring as a left winger that drifted inward often. Regulars like Jordi Alba and Luis Suarez took their place on the bench, while Lionel Messi didn’t even make the match squad.
Playing with a massively different lineup Barcelona started brightly, quickly stepping on the ball despite a strong and high-positioned press from the home side. With a midfield adept at controlling the ball, which often featured a deep-dropping Alena, Barcelona were able to enjoy a strong share of possession. While Barcelona stuck to their usual game-plan of creating through possession, Sevilla looked most dangerous on quick plays, trying to get to Jasper Cillessen’s goal as directly as possible.
Despite some decent looking attacks from both sides, neither one managed to test the opposing goalkeeper in the opening 20 minutes of the match. Only four shots were taken during that time, three from Barcelona, but none threatened the goalkeeper. VAR caused a moment of excitement in the 26th minute when Sevilla misunderstood the referee’s signal as a review for a potential handball was underway, but only a corner kick was given while the penalty claim was correctly waved off.
After a relatively slow start Sevilla started to pick things up. The hosts were able to pin Barcelona deep on a couple occasions and had a good look on goal at the half hour mark from just outside of the area, but Sarabia misfired. In the 36th minute Ben Yedder made a couple gorgeous dribbles inside the Barcelona area to create the best scoring chance up to this point, but in the end missed the target.
The hosts were picking up stream but Barcelona also weren’t giving up and came within inches of taking the lead in the 41st minute. Arthur played Malcom through on goal and the winger expertly rounded the keeper. However, Malcom couldn’t fire the ball inside the frame, missing the near post by inches. In the 44th minute Sevilla tested Cillessen for the first time as Ever Banega found Ben Yedder inside the area for a golden opportunity but the Dutchman made an excellent save. The halftime whistle blew after a minute of added time was played.
The second half started with neither manager making any personnel changes. While Barcelona looked to attack it were the hosts who were the more dangerous side. Barcelona’s defense was mostly able to deal with Sevilla’s attacks, but the Rojiblancos were pushing and in the 56th minute Ibrahim Amadou missed a good chance. Two minutes later Sevilla threatened again and this time they found the back of the net with Sarabia slotting in after being left unguarded on the right side. VAR had a look for possible Amadou interference from an offside position but the goal stood.
Quincy Promes was causing Barcelona, most notably Roberto, all kinds of problems on the wing and in the 61st minute the Dutchman was again looking to provide an assist, but the chance went begging. Two minutes later Valverde brought on reinforcements with Suarez and Philippe Coutinho taking the places of Boateng and Malcom. Coutinho would have a glorious chance just seconds later, but his shot took a slight redirection off of Simon Kjær to go wide, though the referees missed the touch.
With the additions of the two first team regulars, paired with injures to Sarabia and Jesus Navas, Barcelona started pinning Sevilla deep, but a turnover from Coutinho in midfield and dreadful defending from a handful of defenders led to Sevilla doubling their lead in the 77th minute through Ben Yedder.
In the 80th minute Alba also joined play as he replaced Semedo. Barcelona were pushing for the goal that would give them the all-important away goal and in the 82nd they came close first through Suarez and then through Gerard Pique, but both attempts went just wide of the post. Even though Barcelona were attacking, Juan Soriano wasn’t called into action as the Catalans couldn’t get anything going against an organized Sevilla defense. Four minutes were added on and they went past without much fuss and Barcelona have left it all to do in the second leg. However, Barcelona first have to focus on Sunday’s match against Girona.