FC Barcelona (4th, 54pts) vs Sevilla FC (2nd, 57pts)
Competition/Round: 2021-22 La Liga, Matchday 30
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Ansu Fati, Luuk De Jong, Sergiño Dest, Sergi Roberto, Samuel Umtiti (out)
Sevilla Outs & Doubts: Marcos Acuña, Fernando, Óliver Torres, Thomas Delaney, Suso, Papu Gómez (out)
Date/Time: Sunday, April 3, 2022, 9pm CET (Barcelona), 8pm BST/WAT (UK & Nigeria), 3pm ET, 12pm PT (USA), 12.30am IST (India, Monday)
Venue: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Referee: José María Sánchez Martínez
VAR: José Luis González González
How to watch on TV: Not Available (USA), TSN 1 (Canada), LaLigaTV (UK), SuperSport (Nigeria), MTV (India), Movistar LaLiga (Spain), others
How to watch online: ESPN+ (USA), LaLigaTV (UK), others
Following what felt like 17 weeks of the final internation break of the European season, Barcelona return to action to begin the stretch run of the 2021-22 campaign with a huge La Liga game against Sevilla at the Greatest Stadium on Earth on Sunday Night Fútbol.
The last time we saw Barça in action, the Blaugrana utterly destroyed Real Madrid in a El Clásico win for the ages and the absolute best performance of the Xavi Hernández Era. The Barça legend has his team playing amazing football at the perfect time, dominating the months of February and March to put them in a great position ahead of the final seven weeks of the season.
Barça are favorites to win the Europa League and begin their quarterfinal tie with Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday, and they also control their destiny in the La Liga Top 4 race and will finish the weekend in second place with a game in hand if they take all three points, overtaking Sunday’s opponents Sevilla in the process to solidify their position in the hunt for a Champions League spot.
Real Madrid will win the league and will keep getting as many penalties as necessary to ensure that fate, so judging Barça by their inability to catch Los Blancos is a futile exercise. Finishing second should be the goal, and winning on Sunday will give them the inside track to accomplish that objective.
Barça’s remaining league schedule is tough but manageable, with Sevilla at home and Real Betis and Real Sociedad away the only true big hurdles on the road ahead. The game in hand is a huge advantage, and if Barça can stay ahead of Sevilla until they finally catch up with the rest of the league they will be in great shape.
But beating Sevilla will not be easy. Julen Lopetegui’s team has been very consistent throughout the season, and there is a very good case to be made for them as the best defense in Europe right now. They work hard, are well organized and can also cause problems with the ball in all sorts of ways: long passing sequences, lightning-quick counter-attacks, set pieces, all of it.
They haven’t lost in the league since November, but a deeper look reveals a few issues: they’ve drawn seven of their last nine, mostly against mid-table sides, and did not play well in either leg of their Europa League exit at the hands of West Ham United. There are key injuries in midfield and attack and their starting XI has played a lot of minutes recently, and in many ways they really needed the international break to recharge the batteries and try to muster enough energy to finish the season strong.
This is a good time to be facing Sevilla especially considering Barça’s form, but anyone thinking the Blaugrana will dominate and win easily just because they were great in El Clásico is fooling themselves. Every game presents a different challenge, and Sevilla are a very unique, tricky puzzle to solve. This will be very tough, and three points are all that matter. Whatever it takes.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Alves, Araujo, Piqué, Alba; F. De Jong, Busquets, Pedri; Dembélé, Aubameyang, Ferran
Sevilla (4-3-3): Bono; Navas, Koundé, Carlos, Augustinsson; Rakitic, Gudelj, Jordán; Ocampos, En-Nesyri, Martial
The first game after the international break is always tricky, and against a team as good as Sevilla it becomes a really big challenge. This won’t be high-scoring and I don’t expect Barça to play well because Sevilla are built to make that virtually impossible: 1-0 to the good guys in a nervous, frustrating match that will be all about grinding out a result.