FC Barcelona (1st, 50pts) vs Sevilla FC (13th, 21pts)*
*Points and positions at the time of writing on Saturday
Competition/Round: 2022-23 La Liga, Matchday 20
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Ousmane Dembélé, Pablo Torre (out), Alejandro Balde (doubt)
Sevilla Outs & Doubts: Jesus Navas, Alex Telles, Papu Gómez, Marcão, Jesus Corona (out)
Date/Time: Sunday, February 5, 2023, 9pm CET/WAT (Barcelona & Nigeria), 8pm GMT (UK), 3pm ET, 12pm PT (USA), 1.30am IST (India, Monday)
Venue: Spotify Camp Nou, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Referee: José María Sánchez Martínez
VAR: José Luís González González
How to watch on TV: Not Available (USA, India, Spain), ITV 4 (UK), TSN 3 (Canada), SuperSport (Nigeria), others
Following an impressive win away to Real Betis to maintain their five-point lead at the top of the La Liga table, Barcelona return to action with another big league game against a team from Seville as they welcome Sevilla to the Spotify Camp Nou on Sunday Night Fútbol.
After two weeks of poor performances and nail-biting wins Barça finally played great football again, dominating Betis for all 90 minutes and getting three big points at one of the toughest grounds in the country. The Blaugrana have a perfect record in 2023 and are currently on pace for 100 points in the league, but staying ahead of Real Madrid and winning the title is the only priority. Records are secondary.
This team is a force defensively and is slowly starting to develop a very nice attacking system since Xavi Hernández made the change to a four-midfielder formation with Sergio Busquets, Frenkie De Jong, Pedri and Gavi all together to control the most important area of the pitch and create chances for the forwards. This team could be devastating once Ousmane Dembélé returns from injury, but for now it’s all about getting better, playing well and continuing to win games.
And on paper they have a really good chance to win this one: Sevilla have had a tragic season and are already eliminated from every Cup competition and would need a miracle to even have a shot at playing European football next season, and Jorge Sampaoli is an enigmatic, unpredictable presence who could all of a sudden decide to leave and return to South America where he is seen and treated almost like a coaching god (like, seriously).
But for now he’s staying in Seville, and the team is slowly starting to show signs of life. Sampaoli constantly changes personnel and formations and wants his team to play expansive, possession-based attacking football no matter the opposition. They’re still in a relegation fight but could move to a comfortable position in mid-table with a good month, and causing an upset at Camp Nou would be a major confidence boost.
Despite their terrible record and inconsistent form they have a whole lot of talent in midfield and attack and could cause plenty of problems if they can build from the back against the Barça press and find spaces inside the Blaugrana defense. They cannot be taken for granted and will present a challenge, but Barça have the better team, are playing at home and are almost guaranteed a clean sheet these days.
If the attack can function against what might be an open Sevilla defense, they could win easily. If they don’t bring their A-game from the very beginning, this could get tense. It’s about being professional, intense and clinical to create chances, score some goals and get three more points.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Kounde, Araujo, Christensen, Alba; Pedri, Busquets, De Jong; Raphinha, Lewandowski, Gavi
Sevilla (3-4-3): Bono; Badé, Fernando, Rekik; Montiel, Jordán, Rakitic, Acuña; Suso, En-Nesyri, Ocampos
Sevilla have nothing to lose at this point of the season but aren’t playing well enough to be a real threat. I still expect a tough one anyway, with Barça doing just enough to get the win: 2-0 to the good guys.