PREVIEW | FC Barcelona v Sevilla
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Barça completed the first half of the league season with 50 out of a possible 57 points, and following their amazing run of nine wins and one draw in the last ten games, have moved five points clear of Real Madrid.
The latest victory was an important one against a Betis side that's doing a lot of good things this season. Real Madrid matched it with a 2-0 defeat of Valencia the day after and are travelling to Mallorca on Sunday (4pm CET).
Later in the day, Barça host Sevilla at Spotify Camp Nou in a 9pm CET kick-off, where they'll be hoping to continue a surprisingly strong series of results against the Andalusians, which they extended to 14 games without defeat when Raphinha, Lewandowski and Eric Garcia scored the goals in a 3-0 win at the Sanchez Pizjuan earlier this season.
Despite finishing fourth and qualifying for the Champions League last season, 2022/23 hasn't at all been going as planned for Sevilla under new manager Jorge Sampaoli. While Gonzalo Montiel, Marcos Acuña and Papu Gómez were away helping Argentina to World Cup victory in Qatar, and Yassine Bounou and Youssef En-Nesyri helped take Morocco to the semi-finals, their team back in Spain was lumbering the relegation zone.
With three wins from their four games in January, things are finally starting to look up a bit for Sevilla. Indeed, they are a much better team than their current thirteenth place suggests, and although Barça are the favourites to take the three points from this fixture, it's going to be anything but an easy ride.
Ousmane Dembélé is again absent with a thigh injury, while Ángel Alarcón of the U19s has again been included in the 21-man squad announced on Saturday. Alejandro Balde missed training on Saturday with a fever, but has been included in the squad in the expectation that he'll be feeling better by Sunday evening.
🚨 The squad for #BarçaSevilla! pic.twitter.com/D9qveEQ5yw— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) February 4, 2023
Sevilla welcome top goalscorer Lamela back from suspension and Dmitrovic is back from injury, but they still have a number of unfit players. None of Papu Gómez, Alex Telles, Tecatito Corona, Jesús Navas or Marcao are available.
Did you know?
Sevilla have gone for two decades without a single win away to Barça. The last home defeat for the Catalans was way back in 2002.
Careful in the air! Sevilla may not have been having the best of seasons, but they have scored more goals from headers (7) than any other team.
And Youssef En-Nesyri seems to have found his touch again. It's been a below par season in terms of goals from the Moroccan, but he's scored three times in the last two outings for his side.
"Despite their league position, this is a difficult game. Sampaoli is a great coach and his teams defend well ... They're a rebellious side with a wealth of experience."
"Because of his age, Pablo Torre needs to be playing games regularly. We knew that when we bought him. That's why he's going to be playing for the reserve team."
"The atmosphere among the current squad is one of the best I've ever witnessed at Barça. They are feeling very confident and the Super Cup was a major boost to their confidence. But although we have won a trophy already, we can't let our shoulders drop. We're doing well in the league but the cup games have been harder for us."
"It was also important to see the team got through the games without Lewandowski. I'm very happy with players like Ansu Fati, Raphinha, Ferran, Gavi, Frenkie, Kessié, they are all doing their bit in attack as well."
"The team is on the right track. but it's still in construction. We're improving but it would be going too far to start comparing us to the great sides of the past."
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