Preview: Sevilla vs FC Barcelona (and a look at the Champions League draw)

Barça face Sevilla tomorrow night (Saturday kick off 8pm local time) at the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium. The news of Eric Abidal’s illness is a reminder that football is only a game and there are often more important things in life. The news will have come as a big blow to the other players but Eric will no doubt have urged them to do everything they can to win the three points tomorrow. With just twelve games remaining in La Liga there is no room for slip-ups if we are to maintain any sort of pressure on leaders Real Madrid.

Besides Abidal, Pep Guardiola will also be without the injured Afellay, Fontas and Villa though the good news is that Thiago Alcantara and Alexis Sanchez have trained normally with the group and will both travel for the game. Guardiola has yet to pronounce whether he will continue as Barça’s first team coach next season despite reports in yesterday’s Sport that he has decided to sign for another season. It could just be, of course, that he has decided not to announce anything due to Abidal’s situation.

Sevilla are having a pretty poor season by their standards despite being the only team to take a point at Camp Nou after Javi Varas saved Leo Messi’s last minute penalty. Since then the ex-Real Madrid player Michel has taken over from Marcelino Garcia Toral as coach and restored the 38-year-old Andrés Palop as first choice keeper. Sevilla’s top scorer last season Alvaro Negredo has been struggling with injuries and he is doubtful to play while Coke and Fazio are suspended but Freddy Kanoute, Gary Medel, Emir Spahic should all return to the team.

I’ve posted the match preview early this week because I want to mention the Champions League draw. Unfortunately, I will be busy all day so I won’t be able to make a post immediately after the draw as I would have liked. I will post a comment here later tonight on our opponents but I have to say I would love it if we got Madrid now in the quarter finals. Of the other teams I think Milan, Bayern and Chelsea are the most dangerous but also the most attractive opponents.

We know Milan well after meeting in the group stages and they will always be dangerous over a two-leg tie. They showed all their strengths and weaknesses in the two recent games with Arsenal but it is unlikely that we will see a repeat of their poor first half at the Emirates if they face us. Players like Robinho and Ibrahimovic can both be lethal on a good night while Kevin-Prince Boateng showed against Arsenal and against us that he is capable of surprising with spectacular goals.

Bayern will be especially dangerous given their desire to reach the final in their own Allianz Arena stadium. Mario Gomez is the only player who seems to have a chance of stopping Leo Messi ending the tournament as the top scorer after his four goals against Basel. But the real stars are Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben with strong supporting cast of Thomas Muller, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

Chelsea achieved a heroic comeback to defeat Napoli on Wednesday and with new coach Roberto di Matteo taking over from Andre Villas-Boas they will be hoping to turn around a disappointing season. AVB had been trying to rejuvenate the aging Chelsea team but was criticized for dropping established players like Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Didier Drogba. Di Matteo may be the man who can get the best out of the older players, especially as for players like Lampard, Cole, Drogba, Terry and Essien the time is running out if they want to add a Champions League winners medal to their collections. These players will also be keen to get revenge for the controversial semi-final exit after Iniesta’s last minute goal three years ago

Benfica Marseilla and Apoel would appear to be the easier of the possible opponents. Benfica finished above Basel and Manchester United in the group stage before beating Zenit St. Petersburg in the last 16. Marseilla finished behind Arsenal in Group F before knocking out Inter Milan on away goals. But the biggest surprise is to see Apoel who finished top of Group G above Zenit, Porto and Shakhtar before an incredible penalties victory over Lyon.

To sum up quickly my order of preference for opponents is as follows: Real Madrid, Benfica, Marseilla, Apoel, Bayern, Milan, Chelsea.

Barça’s possible starting lineup vs Sevilla: Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Puyol; Busquets, Xavi, Fabregas; Alexis, Messi, Iniesta.

My prediction: Sevilla 1 Barça 3

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13 Responses to Preview: Sevilla vs FC Barcelona (and a look at the Champions League draw)

  1. layibiyi says:

    i hope we win out like u predicted….gonna be a really tough game

    ps. you didnt state any your reason for preferring madrid first though i guess we all have an idea. I dont know, i think i will prefer one of the ‘smaller’ teams at this time.

    • barcacentralnic says:

      I’ve seen Madrid play recently (Betis + CSKA) and they haven’t impressed me that much, on the contrary I think we are just hitting a good spell so I’d rather have played them sooner rather than later. Also I would have preferred a two-legged contest as I believe there is a higher element of chance in a final, and remember the only time Madrid have beaten Guardiola’s Barça was a final. That said, if we do get a Barça-Madrid final it should be a terrific contest, some will no doubt (not for the first time) call it “The Match of the Century”

  2. Fredegar says:

    Now we can be sure that there’s no God. Or if there’s one, he is, as they say, indeed a Madridista…

    • barcacentralnic says:

      The footballing gods do seem to be wearing white this season. Maybe they are on Florentino’s payroll 😛

  3. barcacentralnic says:

    Wow! The draw couldn’t have been much worse. But at least they will be big games and we are drawn to play the second leg at home in both Quarter Final and the possible Semi Final. In the group stage we were clearly the better team over the two games with Milan but as we learnt two years ago against Inter this counts for nothing in the knock out stages. Both Milan and Chelsea, if we meet them in the semis, are teams with loads of experience and I imagine they will be very tough ties.

  4. Fredegar says:

    So if we want to win this thing, we’ll have to beat first Ibrahimovic, then (probably) Chelsea, then (probably) Mou and Madrid (although Bayern in the semis won’t be a piece of cake for them). Talk of old foes and destiny!
    But if we DO win it, it will be the sweetest title ever!

  5. Xavi says:

    No worries:

    The last time we met Milan in the knockout stages, the semi-final in 2006, we got through and ended as Champions.
    The last time we played Chelsea in the knockout stages, semis in 2009, we got through and ended as Champions.
    (And in case we play Benfica) the last time we played Benfica, quarter-final in 2006, we got through and ended as Champions.
    And finally, the last time we met Real Madrid in the Champions League, semi-final 2011, we beat them and ended up as Champions.

  6. FC Barcelona Rocks! says:

    Really tough draw for us in the Champions League. Milan won’t be easy meat. Especially now that we have lost Abidal. We would be seriously lacking in height in defence. I’m very very worried to be honest. Do we need Thiago Silva or what?? =D

    About Bayern, Nic i have to say that i have been following Bayern very very closely this season, and you probably got the stats a little wrong. Bayern’s main players will no doubt be Thomas Muller and Bastian Schweinsteger. These 2 are the closet combination in comparison to our Xavi and Iniesta. Madrid will have an uphill task if they meet a full strength Bayern side for sure!

    If we win this Champions League, we will no doubt be officially pronounced as the best football team in club history while Leo Messi will be the official GREATEST of the greatest!!

    • barcacentralnic says:

      Thanks for the feedback on Bayern. I saw the Bayern-Basel game and thought Ribery was terrific, Schweinsteiger a player I always rated but he’s had injury problems and only started on the bench. If Ribery, Robben, Muller and Schweinsteiger are all fit it will interesting to see who plays.

      • layibiyi says:

        their first team is basically 4231 with schwieni, gustavo, muller, robben, ribery n gomez. kroos drops out for schwieni.

        will definitely be a tough game for madrid

    • layibiyi says:

      you just made me think about our lack of height without abidal from henceforth. i guess we would probably see puyol at left back in places like san siro or stamford bridge if needed. makes me miss abidal more. get well soon, man.

      • barcacentralnic says:

        In defence we will really need to get Piqué back to his best. Now we see the Madrid press are targeting him for one of their let’s-screw-Barça campaigns. Guardiola spoke yesterday at length about Piqué, insisting that for players with such importance to the club it will be the player, not the coach or the club, who decides if and when he wants to move on. Pique’s form has worried me a lot this season but if we look back at previous seasons we will remember that Gerard always seems to find his best form at the end of the season. Who can forget his performance in the 2-6 win in Madrid or his final in Rome or his heroic efforts against Inter that were not quite enough in 2010..

  7. FC Barcelona Rocks! says:

    I’m getting nervous about this match. We really can’t afford to drop points anymore.
    I pray Pep won’t tinker much with our midfield starting lineup. It is vital for us to control the midfield hence Xavi and Iniesta MUST be deployed with Busquets as our DM.

    I agree with you Nic. Pique has to be at his best from now till the end of the season. The team needs insurance at the back.

    In the upcoming matches, i hope Pep gives Muniesa and Batra as many minutes as possible, sparingly. We may need the young ones to cover in defense in an event of emergency. Above everything, i really hope for all our defenders to stay fit and NOT get injured from here on.

    Here’s hoping for a speedy recovery for the gutsy Eric Abidal. Get well soon Abi!

    My predictions for this match will be a very slim 3-2 victory for our boys.

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