Barça return to league action tomorrow night with the visit of Sevilla to Camp Nou (kick off 10 pm). After the horrible defeat at Milan in the Champions League on Wednesday it is good to have another game so quickly to think about something else. With the return Copa del Rey semi-final with Real Madrid coming up on Tuesday it seems very likely that there will be quite a few changes to the team that lost in Milan.
Our twelve-point advantage in La Liga over second placed Atlético Madrid should allow us to give total priority to the cup clásico. Personally I’d make ten changes, with the intention of having everybody fresh for Tuesday, leaving only Valdés from last Wednesday’s team. But team selection will depend on each player’s physical condition. Jordi Roura today explained that although he has medical clearance Eric Abidal will not play immediately, saying: ‘We have to see how he evolves physically and when he has the tone for competition.’ Adriano is still doubtful and it might be more prudent not to rush him given his record with muscular injuries, but David Villa has trained with the team over the last two days and should be ready to return to the starting line-up.
Earlier in the season Barça overturned a 2-0 deficit at the Sanchez Pizjuan to win 2-3 thanks to two goals from Cesc Fabregas and an injury time winner from David Villa. Before that match Sevilla were fifth in the table but a string of bad results saw them fall to 14th at Christmas. Coach Michel was sacked in early January and was replaced by ex-Valencia coach Unai Emery, returning to Spanish football after his short unsuccessful stint at Spartak Moscow.
Since Emery’s appointment Sevilla have taken ten points from five games with the only defeat being their 4-1 defeat two weeks ago at the Bernabeu. The results have moved them back up to 10th place on 32 points while they have also reached the Copa del Rey semi-finals. However, despite the improvement Sevilla have continued to show poor form away from home and they haven’t won away in the league since a 0-2 win at Deportivo on September 24.
The fact that Sevilla meet Atlético Madrid in the cup on Wednesday, trying to overturn the 2-1 deficit from the first leg, will probably lead Emery to make rotations too. Central defender Spahic is suspended while Trochowski, Perotti, Cicinho and keeper Palop are all out injured. With Diego Lopez’s move this winter to Real Madrid, Sevilla have signed the Portuguese keeper Beto on loan from Sporting Braga and he should start tomorrow. Sevilla’s task has not been helped by the strike from Spanish airline Iberia which means they are making a six-hour train journey arriving in Barcelona around 10.30 pm this evening (Friday).
It’s going to be a cold night at Camp Nou tomorrow. Hopefully, the team can put on a performance to warm the brave souls who attend the game.
Possible starting XIs:
Barça: Valdés; Montoya, Bartrá, Mascherano, Alba; Thiago, Song, Fabregas; Tello, Alexis, Villa.
Sevilla: Beto; Coke, Fazio, Botía, Navarro; Medel, Kongdogbia, Maduro; Navas, Negredo, Manu del Moral.
Prediction: Barça 2 Sevilla 1
Date: Saturday 23 February 2013. Kick off: 10 pm local time.