Barça are back in action tomorrow night with a visit to the Sanchez Pizjuan for a league game against Sevilla. If you take a casual look at the league table after five games it might appear that all is rosy for Barça with five wins out of five and an eight-point advantage over seventh-placed Real Madrid. However, a more detailed look reveals that Barça’s five victories have been against the clubs positioned 14th, 15th, 17th, 19th and 20th in the table suggesting we haven’t got that much to crow about with the season so far.
Of course, you can only beat the team you have facing you, but tomorrow’s game will be a much sterner test of Tito Vilanova’s team. Sevilla are in fifth place after starting the league with three wins and two draws, but the record at home is 100% after beating Getafe 2-1 on the opening day of the season, and Real Madrid 1-0. Going forward they have Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo both in good form while defensively they are looking very tight with three clean sheets in the last three games. They have strengthened their defence with the signings this summer of ex-blaugrana Albert Botia, right back Cicinho (not the one who used to play for Madrid) and the excellent goalkeeper Diego Alves who abandoned Villarreal’s sinking submarine. However, for now Andres Palop, nearing his 39th birthday, has been continuing to show what a first-class goalie he is, leaving Diego Alves to wait his chance on the bench.
Barça still have problems in defence with Puyol and Piqué out for tomorrow’s game, but the press seems to think they will both make it for the clásico on October 7. Adriano tweaked a muscle last week against Granada but he looks like he will travel though the chances are that Jordi Alba will get another chance at left back. Andres Iniesta trained normally yesterday for the first time since his recent thigh injury and should also travel though we might also see him start on the bench as a precaution. Busquets seems fine after a back problem earlier this week and he should start. The main selection decisions seem to be who will partner Mascherano at the back – though it seems probable that Song will again be preferred over Bartrá – and who will play up front with three times Onze D’Or winner Leo Messi. Pedro seems the most likely to start on the right which leaves David Villa, Alexis Sanchez and Cristian Tello fighting for one place.
A victory will equal our best league start to a season of six straight wins, though more importantly it will show what Tito’s team is capable of in a tough venue. Most people seem to believe we are going to see another two-horse title race between Barça and Madrid this season though there are some interesting outsiders who may rock the boat a little. Both Sevilla and Atlético have made very strong starts while both Barça and Madrid have revealed some possible weaknesses.
In Pep Guardiola’s four years in charge we never lost at the Sanchez Pizjuan with three wins and a draw in our four league visits. However, I feel we are going to have to raise our game tomorrow if we want to continue with the winning start to the season. Hopefully we’ll see a goal as good as the one Messi got in the 0-2 in our last visit to Seville back in March.
Possible Barça XI: Valdés; Alves, Song, Mascherano, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Fabregas; Pedro, Messi, Alexis.
My prediction: Sevilla 1 Barça 1