Luis Enrique has just sixteen first team players available for tomorrow afternoon’s game at Sevilla (Saturday 4 pm) as Barça look to regain top spot in La Liga before the internation break. Villarreal, who lead the table on 16 points after seven games, play at Levante on Sunday and Barça will also be hoping to take advantage of Atlético Madrid playing Real Madrid this weekend.
There are some important decisions to be make regarding team selection. The most difficult will be deciding whether to continue with Ter Stegen in goal or to restore the fit-again Claudio Bravo. Most fans would probably agree that Bravo offers more security though Luis Enrique may prefer to wait until after the international break before bringing him back. The Barça coach will also need to find a formula to cover for the absentees, especially those in midfield and attack. Should he play Munir or Sandro to accompany Suárez and Neymar up front or should he look for another alternative? Should Mascherano be moved into midfield. And where best to play Sergi Roberto to get the most from the youngster’s excellent moment of form?
There is also the possibility of a change of formation. Lucho could decide on a 4-4-2 with Mathieu or Bartra partnering Piqué in central defence, and a midfield of Sergi Roberto, Rakitic, Busquets and Mascherano. However, it seems more likely that we will continue with the 4-3-3 which could be formed by Ter Stegen in goal, a defence of Alves, Piqué, Mascherano and Alba, a midfield three of Sergi Roberto, Busquets and Rakitic with Munir, Suárez and Neymar up front.
If Barça have problems, it is just as bad, if not worse, for Unai Emery’s Sevilla who will be without Beto, Pareja, Rami, Escudero, Carriço, Banega and Kakuta for tomorrow’s game. Like Barça, Sevilla have suffered the consequences of a limited preseason due to important games in August which could very well be the cause of the numerous muscular injuries accumulated by both teams. Sevilla have started the league season with just five points from six games and they only gained their first victory in last Saturday’s 3-2 win over Rayo Vallecano. They lost 2-0 to Juventus in the Champions League on Wednesday, giving them little time to prepare for tomorrow’s afternoon kick-off. The only good news for Emery is that Fernando Llorente and Vitolo have recovered from their injuries and will be available again against Barça.
The two teams last met in Barça’s 5-4 extra-time win in the European Supercup Final in August, and as last season’s corresponding fixture ended in a 2-2 draw it is pretty safe to expect goals tomorrow. Sevilla haven’t beaten Barça at the Sanchez Pizjuan since the 2006/07 season and Emery continues with his record of never having beaten Barça despite giving us plenty of problems with his teams over the years. Tomorrow could be different but I’m expecting Sevilla to be more affected by their absentees and for Barça to take all three points in a high-scoring game.
Sevilla: Rico; Coke, Kolooziejczak, Andreolli, Tremoulinas; Krychowiak, N’Zonzi; Reyes, Iborra, Vitolo; Gameiro.
Barça: Ter Stegen; Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Alba; Sergi Roberto, Busquets, Rakitic; Munir, Suárez, Neymar.
Prediction: Sevilla 2 Barça 3
Date: Saturday 3 October 2015. Kick-off 4.00 pm local time.