And the games just keep on coming. Tomorrow night we travel to Andalusia to face Sevilla in the 2nd match of our very testing 4 game La Liga road schedule. We already won in Mestalla, tonight we are at the Sanchez Pizjuan, next week at El Madrigal (Villarreal), and then finally the Bernabeu. Guardiola said this evening that this stadium has been the host of his worst moments as manager. Specifically, he was referring to the final 20 minutes of last year’s game when even being up 3-0 and having a one man advantage, Sevilla got back 2 goals and made the last minutes of that game incredibly nervous. I remember that game just as clearly. However, we did win, and frankly, in La Liga we have won our last 5 games against Sevilla by a goal margin of 19 scored versus 2 conceded. We did lose to them in the Copa del Rey last season, but, frankly, Palop was the only reason that happened.
I did not do a wrap up this week because the Arsenal match pretty much dominated the week from Monday to Friday. I think we have all had our say about it, but I will mention that I was very surprised by how the English media handled it. All the papers were pretty much in unison with the conclusion that despite the red car we were drastically better. Those hugely one-sided statistics also went along way.
Anyway, back to tomorrow. 19 players make the journey, with the only key absentee being Puyol. I must say, I did not expect him to be out so long with the type of injury he has reported to have, which was a tendonitis in the knee. It is slightly worrying that the pain keeps resurfacing, but all you can really do is rest this sort of injury. Selection wise, I do not see the need for rotation tonight, firstly due to the importance of the fixture and secondly as after this we have a proper week rest. Obviously it depends on the levels of fitness and fatigue Pep and Tito note in trainings. Pique will return to center back with the superb Abidal. I rate Maxwell will get the start, firstly as Adriano played Tuesday but also as it is the Brazilian’s first game back to the club that gave him his career breakthrough. Otherwise I see the normal team with Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Messi, Villa, and Pedro.
Sevilla have been having their worst season in at least 4 or 5 years. Manzano has not brought the stability and guidance most expected and the team has been very inconsistent. Their latest 10 matches (in all competitions) read: L, W, D, W, W, L, L, D, L, D. They currently sit in 7th spot with 38 points and have no chance of making Champions League spots this year. They have been particularly poor at the back, conceding 42 goals in the 27 games (1.56 per game), which is the 2nd (behind Sociedad’s 44) worst in the top 10 teams in the league. In fact, it’s the 4th worst overall. They have however been much stronger at home, where they have collected 24 of their 38 points and won 7 of their 11 games.
Palop will be missing tonight as he failed to recover from injury issues as well as Escude who is suspended. Tonight there will also be no Luis Fabiano who in fact was sold to Sao Paolo with immediate effect yesterday in quite an interesting and surprising transfer. We will come up against one of our own in Martin Caceres tonight who has been the starting right back for Sevilla this year. Their left back Fernando Navarro is also a Masia product. Romaric provides steel in the midfield and keep an eye out for new midfielder Rakitic, who signed from Schalke during January and so far has done well with 2 goals in his 4 matches. But the bulk of their danger comes from the usual area: the wings. Navas will be running down the right and the left will either be Perotti or Capel. Perotti is quite a good player and usually starts, but he is just coming back from injury so his fitness is in question. Negredo will deputize upfront and despite having an inconsistent career at Sevilla, he has real quality in his feet and is dangerous with both feet and in the air.
A win tomorrow will be another purposeful step forward towards securing the league. Madrid surely looked at these 3 games away from home before the Bernabeu and hoped we would drop points in at least 1 of them. If we can make it to the capital with 3 wins from 3 away, as well as winning the home games versus Getafe and Almeria in-between, there will be just 6 games left. But, one game at a time, that’s the best motto and one that has served us well thus far.
Enjoy the game readers. Força Barça