It’s round 8 of La Liga 2011/12 and Barça will host a rejuvenated, undefeated Sevilla side at the Camp Nou at 10 pm tonight. Our home form has thus far been impeccable, with 4 wins from 4, 21 goals scored (5.25 goals per game!), and 0 goals conceded. Sevilla on the other hand have a started off quite timidly on their travels, with 3 draws in 3 matches, a 2-2 in El Madrigal and then a pair of 0-0 draws in Osasuna and Atlético Madrid. But historically, this game is really not a favorite for the men from Andalusia.
Sevilla have entered the Camp Nou 67 times in their history and from those hold the record of the most goals ever conceded in our stadium of any other team, with 188 goals. That’s an average of 2.8 goals let in each game. Recent history tells a similar tale with no wins in the last 3 seasons under Pep, and a grand total of 0 goals scored and 13 conceded (-4.3 goals a game).
So neither history nor recent encounters are in their favor, and it does not end there. New manager Marcelino will have to do without 3 key men due to either suspension or injury. New signing from Montpellier, veteran Bosnian international Spahic, a vital piece of Sevilla new look defense that have only let in 6 goals (4th best) faces a mandatory one game ban after collecting 5 yellows. Then two of their very best Negredo and Perotti are both injured. Below is the 18 man squad called for the game:
Palop, Javi Varas, Coke, Martín Cáceres, Alexis, Fazio, Escudé, F. Navarro, Luna, Medel, Rakitic, Campaña, Trochovski, Jesús Navas, Armenteros, Manu del Moral, Luis Alberto y Kanouté.
There are the usual threats of Navas and Kanouté, with a familiar face in Navarro and the experienced (37 years old) and often game saving keeper Palop. Another familiar name is that of Martín Cáceres. Despite costing us around 17 million in Pep’s first year, Cáceres didn’t really earn Pep’s trust, maybe wasn’t really given enough chance, but either way he’s been on loan at both Juventus and Sevilla before making the deal permamnt this summer for 4.5 million (3 + 1.5 variable) giving us a handsome 12.5 million Euro loss. I always felt the natural talent was evident in Martín, but a stereotypical South American rashness and roughness in his tackles saw him become a bit of a liability. Nevertheless, thus far the cheap transfer fee has been well worth evident in La Liga pundit Tim Stannard naming the Uruguayan in his team of the year thus far.
Barça are boosted by the medical clearance of Cesc Fàbregas, though I’d presume he will start on the bench. A few more records will and could occur tonight, the players involved Xavi and Valdés. Xavi will equal the long-standing record held by Migeuli as the most capped blaugrana in La Liga competition with 391 matches. As my personal favorite player for many years and for my money best passing midfielder ever in the game, I feel very happy for Xavi and the privilege of his loyalty. Another of my personal favorites, one I have fought for many years, Victor Valdés, already the club’s longest standing keeper, could break a personal record if he manages to not concede for 56 minutes. He hasn’t had to pick the ball out of his net for 521 consecutive minutes, and his personal record stands at 577.
Team news wise, as mentioned Cesc is back, but Piqué and Alexis are both injured. That leaves 17 total first team players with Isaac Cuenca making up the 18th spot. As always we could see a variety of permutations in the first 11. Will Puyol start, or will it be Abi/Masch? Is there room for Thiago, or are we likely to see the accomplished Xavi-Busquets-Iniesta supporting MVP?
Should be a cracking affair tonight, and the match directly preceding this sees moaning Mourinho travel to Malagá. Wouldn’t mind a few points dropped in that match and seeing the gentleman Pelligrini get one over his less than gentlemanly (to be kind) predecessor.