Barcelona’s Copa hopes hit
The Copa del Rey still looks to be Barca’s best hope of a trophy this season, but Ronald Koeman’s men have a mountain to climb if they are to see off Sevilla and make it into the final.
Wednesday’s clash saw two in-form teams collide and Sevilla secure a 2-0 win that will make them favorites to progress to a date against either Athletic or Levante.
Koeman insisted his team deserved more from the game, and certainly the visitors were unlucky to be denied a penalty when Jordi Alba was fouled and a free-kick given instead.
Yet it wasn’t to be and Barca now have it all to do if they are to avoid ending the campaign empty-handed for a second season in row.
Rakitic returns to haunt Barca
Another Barcelona old boy came back to hurt the Catalan giants on Wednesday, as Ivan Rakitic smashed home Sevilla’s second late on to double the hosts’ lead.
As promised before the match, the Croatia international refused to celebrate his goal but will know he’s inflicted a big blow on his former side that they may not recover from.
Barca may just be getting used to seeing former players enjoy themselves away from the Camp Nou.
Philippe Coutinho scored against the Catalan giants last season during his loan at Bayern Munich, while Luis Suarez is top of La Liga and the goalscoring charts with Atletico.
Injuries proving costly
Barca were, of course, without eight senior players due to injury for the trip to the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium and it showed, particularly in defense.
Koeman started 21-year-old Oscar Mingueza alongside Samuel Umtiti at center-back and started left-back Junior Firpo on the right side of the defense.
Barca struggled at the back and looked wide open at times which is a real worry ahead of next week’s Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain.
It’s now five games without a clean sheet for Barca who have also conceded seven times in their last three outings.
Ronald Araujo was missed and it’s not clear yet when the defender will return, while Barca will also be hoping that Gerard Pique is not too far away from a comeback too.
Classy Kounde shows up Barca
Barca were also undone by a superb performance from Jules Koundé who has regularly been linked with a move to the Camp Nou.
The 22-year-old scored a brilliant opening goal and seems to really enjoy playing against the Catalan giants.
Recent speculation has claimed that Barca were keen on Kounde, who cost Sevilla just €25m, but were put off by his €75 million release clause.
Sevilla admitted last year they turned down a “magnificent offer” for Kounde from Manchester City and they may have to fend off more offers this summer.
Can Barca pull off another comeback?
Barcelona may be down after the first leg but they are not quite out yet and can take some inspiration from their recent comebacks.
The win over Granada in the last round, when Barca were 2-0 down with two minutes to play, springs to mind and was certainly in Pedri’s thoughts after the full-time whistle.
“There are 90 minutes left. The game will be long, there is a lot of time. The clearest example is the game against Granada.”
Barca may have some of their injured stars back for the return including defenders Sergino Dest, Pique and potentially Araujo which should help strengthen the backline.
The Catalan giants will also need Lionel Messi to recapture his usual Sevilla form. The captain was denied three times by Yassine Bounou on Wednesday but generally loves playing the Andalusians and has 37 goals in 41 games against Sevilla.