For the first time this season Luis Enrique has had all 23 first team players plus Munir El-Haddadi training under his orders in preparation for tomorrow’s league game with Sevilla at Camp Nou. Sergi Roberto, Rafinha and Jeremy Mathieu have all received medical clearance this week but Andrés Iniesta has still not got the green light to play and he will be saved for Tuesday’s Champions League game against Apoel in Cyprus. Thomas Vermaelen is the only other player not yet at 100% but reports suggest he is in line for a first Barça appearance in the Copa del Rey against Huesca on December 3.
The early season optimism at Can Barça has been replaced by growing doubts. The press is on Luis Enrique’s case with questions asked about dressing room unity, and just as important is whether he can find the right balance to support the trio of attacking superstars. Nobody knows exactly what’s up with Piqué and on top of this we have had Leo Messi’s enigmatic interview casting doubt over his future. Messi’s comments were pretty innocuous, he did after all say he was happy at Barça, but the press have looked at every nuance of the interview to conclude that he might not be, suggesting that his ongoing tax problems, his relationship with some directors, his current role in the team or even the campaign for Catalan independence are to blame. As the current board’s popularity continues to fall, possible presidential candidates Joan Laporta and Agustí Benedito are bustling for position with Laporta the early favourite for the 2016 elections.
Saturday’s game offers an opportunity for Ivan Rakitic to face his ex-team-mates for the first time since leaving Sevilla in the summer, while Dani Alves, and Adriano if he plays, will also be up against their previous club. The fixture also provides a return to Barcelona for three ex-blaugrana. Fernando Navarro, who will miss tomorrow’s match, left Barça in 2006, but the other two, Gerard Deulofeu and Denis Suarez have more recent histories in the Catalan capital.
Deulofeu was the big star as he advanced through the ranks to debut for Barça B in March 2011 shortly before his 17th birthday. He scored 27 goals in 68 appearances in the B team and made a couple of games for the first team before completing a year on-loan to Everton where he scored three goals in 25 appearances, mainly as a substitute. This season on loan at Sevilla he has again failed to gain a regular starting place though he scored his first ever goal in La Liga at the end of September in the 1-0 win over Real Sociedad. Sevilla coach Unai Emery may decide to take advantage of the fact that Deulofeu will be highly motivated by giving him a start tomorrow but it seems more likely he will stick with Aleix Vidal and Vitolo as his wide attackers as they offer better defensive qualities to track back on Barça’s attacking full-backs. If Deulofeu has mixed fortunes, for Denis Suarez the loan move to Sevilla is going very well with the 20-year-old starting nine of Sevilla’s eleven league games, scoring once and making three assists.
Sevilla are in fifth place in La Liga on 23 points but a victory at Camp Nou would see the Andalusians overtake Barça. In the corresponding fixture last season Sevilla came back from 2-0 down only for Alexis Sanchez to score a last minute winner in a 3-2 victory for Barça.
In other news this week Adama Traore signed a new contract until 2018 while Martin Montoya has been rumoured to be looking for a permanent move from Barça in the winter transfer winter.
Possible starting XIs:
Barça: Bravo; Alves, Mascherano, Mathieu, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Xavi; Luis Suarez, Messi, Neymar.
Sevilla: Beto; Coke, Pareja, Carriço, Kolodziejczak ; M’bai, Krychowiak; Vidal, Denis Suarez, Vitolo; Gameiro.
Prediction: Barça 2 Sevilla 0.
Date: Saturday 22 November 2014. Kick-off 8 pm local time.