Koeman shakes things up
Barca’s teamsheet for Saturday’s match made for interesting reading as Ronald Koeman went with three center-backs and left Antoine Griezmann on the bench again.
It proved to be a great decision by the Barca boss as his new system worked perfectly and drew an excellent performance and all three points.
Barca controlled the match throughout and won it through goals from Ousmane Dembele and Lionel Messi, although the visitors probably should have had a few more.
The new system also brought a second clean sheet in a row and allowed Sevilla very few sights of goal.
It also seemed to bring out the best in a number of players including Dembele, Sergio Busquets and Sergino Dest. Oscar Mingueza also had a fine game back at center-back. All in all a great afternoon’s work from all concerned.
More injuries for Barcelona
Of course, it wasn’t all good news for Barcelona as the Catalans saw Pedri and Ronald Araujo depart in the second half. Barca have since confirmed Pedri has a muscle injury and now looks set for a little spell out.
Araujo also went off 15 minutes after making his return from an ankle injury. Barca haven’t offered an injury update which suggests the problem isn’t serious, and he did appear to want to come back on but Koeman refused to take any risks.
The Uruguayan had looked set to start Wednesday’s Copa del Rey clash alongside Gerard Pique in central defense, but it’s not clear now if he will return to the starting XI or which formation Koeman will go with for the tie.
Ilaix makes an impact
Pedri’s injury did allow 18-year-old Ilaix Moriba some more first-team minutes, and the teenager certainly made the most of them. The youngster produced a great flick to send Lionel Messi away for Barca’s second and was rewarded with a big hug from the captain.
Ilaix was spotted thanking Koeman for the opportunity after the match, and it was certainly a big call to throw the youngster on for the final 20 minutes of the match with the score still at 1-0.
Pedri looks likely to miss Wednesday’s Copa del Rey match on Wednesday which means we might see Ilaix again at the Camp Nou. That’s another big decision Koeman will have to make but he certainly appears to have plenty of faith in the youngster which is great to see.
Dembele drought ends, Messi streak continues
Dembele sent Barca on their win way to victory with his first goal of 2021 and ended a run of 16 games without a goal for the Frenchman.
The 23-year-old took his goal well and his huge smile as he turned away to celebrate was great to see.
Dembele’s pace caused the Sevilla defense all sorts of problems and one brilliant run should have brought a goal for Messi but the captain fired wastefully over the bar.
Still, it was another impressive display by the Argentine as he bagged his 19th league goal of the season late on to extend his lead in the race for the Pichichi.
The goal was Messi’s 30th against Sevilla in La Liga and the fifth straight game in all competitions in which he’s scored. Messi has also found the back of the net in each of his last eight league games.
It’s also worth pointing out that Messi also picked up his fourth booking of the season. One more and he’ll face an automatic one-match ban.
Wins fuels Copa belief
Both the result and the performance against Sevilla will instil belief that Barcelona can go on and pull off the comeback needed when the two teams meet again in three days’ time at the Camp Nou.
The Copa del Rey still looks Barca’s best chance of silverware, but it will need a similar performance again to come back from 2-0 down and book a place in the final.
Barca will know they can’t really afford to concede another goal and will have to take their chances when they come. An early goal would certainly help, although let’s not forget Barca were 2-0 down with two minutes to go at Granada earlier in the tournament.
Gerard Pique talked up Barca’s title hopes after the match but also admitted that if the team do the job on Wednesday “the season changes completely.”
Another dramatic week awaits.