Games between Sevilla and Barcelona that are played at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan are invariably exciting affairs, and Saturday night’s encounter was no different.
From the very first minute it was an eminently watchable match, and that was perhaps as much to do with the sloppiness of the final ball from both sides in the opening exchanges.
Xavi was incandescent by the quarter hour, and no wonder.
Having started to shape his teams into a definitive style, they opted for the long ball time and again, whilst allowing the hosts to get in behind at almost every opportunity. Criminal when one considers how poorly the Andalusians have started the season.
Raphinha’s opener from a lightning-quick counter attack merely smoothed over what had been a fairly abject start from the visitors.
Not until nearer to the half hour mark did Barca exert any sort of control on proceedings, and that must’ve been a worry for the coach.
Not so the decision to have brought Jules Kounde to the club.
2 - Jules Koundé has assisted two goals in the same LaLiga match for the first time in his 97 appearances, becoming the first player to assist twice in his first league away game for Barcelona in the 21st century. Stellar. pic.twitter.com/U31d2EqQe3— OptaJose (@OptaJose) September 3, 2022
Back at his old hunting ground for the first time since a summer switch to Catalonia, the French international was a clear man of the match for Barca.
Almost on the scoresheet himself with a chance he’d surely bury 99 times out of 100, his two assists quickly took the game away from the his old team-mates.
The drilled ball into Robert Lewandowski was Dani Alves-esque, and should Xavi keep him in a right wing-back berth, that’s the quality of delivery expected.
With the football world consistently in the thrall of Messrs Haaland and Mbappe, the Polish international’s claims for the best striker in the world moniker have fallen by the wayside somewhat.
In just a handful of La Liga games, however, Lewy has shown that he belongs in that conversation without a doubt.
His movement, form and goalscoring prowess is gold standard.
He clearly doesn’t have the pace of yesteryear, but nor does he need it. His in-game intelligence is almost peerless within the current Barca set up, with Sergio Busquets perhaps edging that particular argument.
Another player worthy of a mention is Eric Garcia.
Until his untimely second half exit and notwithstanding the first few minutes, Eric had another steady game.
For a player that was much maligned by culers last season, he’s cemented his place alongside Ronald Araujo as the first-choice centre-back pairing.
He may not be headline grabbing as such, but he’s quickly becoming a Mister Dependable for Xavi.
Should his injury be worse than first feared, it couldn’t have come at a worse time for him. Kounde shuffling in alongside Araujo might see Xavi presented with a problem every coach professes to want.
Andreas Christensen and to a much lesser extent now, Gerard Pique, will also both be staking their own claims, meaning Eric will have to quickly get back to his best to assume the position once more.