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Sevilla the next test for Xavi and Barcelona after Clasico delight

Another final for the Catalans

West Ham United v Sevilla FC: Round of 16 Leg Two - UEFA Europa League Photo by Charlotte Wilson/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

When Sevilla step out at the Camp Nou on April 3, there will certainly be a feeling that guaranteed Champions League qualification could be on the line.

For long periods of the current 2021/22 season, Julen Lopetegui’s side had been in sparkling form.

Indeed, it wasn’t too long ago that the Andalusians were being talked up as potential title contenders.

They remain a huge threat to the teams around them of course, however, the second leg of their Europa League tie against West Ham showed everyone that they’re beginning to run out of steam at what is a crucial time in the season.

West Ham United v Sevilla - UEFA Europa League Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Barca, on the contrary, are building on recent performances, and anyone watching the Clasico can’t have failed to have been impressed.

We’ve talked about the momentum the Blaugranes have, and that’s never better evidenced than when viewing which teams have secured the most points over the last couple of months. Barca sit proudly at the top of the tree.

It’s not just that Barca have been getting the results either, which is pleasing, but the manner of the performances.

A never-say-die attitude that was missing during the darkest days of Josep Maria Bartomeu’s presidency, has returned.

That is the foundation and basis that the squad have utilised to go on and dominate opponents in almost all of the past dozen or so games.

Even when not on top they’ve ground out the wins, and that has to be the worry for Lopetegui and Ivan Rakitic et al.

Barca are now finding different, but just as effective, ways to win.

With a bench as strong as it’s been for some time, there are genuine options to be brought on as required.

Perhaps the biggest factor in Barca’s favour is that confidence is flowing freely.

Real Madrid v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Burak Akbulut/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

They almost always counted upon Lionel Messi earning a win against his favourite La Liga opponents, but even without the Argentinian, Xavi’s men will go into the match as clear favourites.

The stakes are high. Win and Barca will leapfrog the Andalusians into second place and still have a game in hand.

Should Sevilla emerge victorious, they’ll remain in the box seat for now.

With Atletico Madrid breathing down Barca’s necks, it’s not an exaggeration to suggest this fixture could be the most important of the season for the hosts.

It isn’t a game to be a shrinking violet either. Lopetegui’s charges need to turn around form that’s seen them only win one of their last five matches.

Time to be brave…

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