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After midweek defeat to Manchester City, FC Barcelona will be looking to bounce straight back to winning ways on Sunday. But that won’t be easy against a Sevilla side has got its Liga campaign off to a very strong start indeed. Here we pick out some of the key aspects to look out for in the 8.45pm CET kick-off.
Sevilla’s bogey team
Barça’s hosts have been enjoying a golden era of late, but you wouldn’t think that by looking at the results of recent clashes between the two. Sevilla’s 2-1 win at the Sanchéz Pizjuán last season was the only game in the last 18 attempts where they've taken all three Liga points off the Catalans. In that time, the rivals have also met in four different finals (one European Super Cup, two Spanish Super Cups and the Copa del Rey Final last year) and Barça have won every time!
To add to the misery in El Nervión, Barça also put Sevilla out of the Copa del Rey in 2008, although the Andalusians did get their revenge two seasons later.
Watch out for Messi
Not a single member of the home team has ever scored more than one league goal against Barça, and only three have done so while playing for the club itself. Compare that to Lionel Messi. He alone has racked up 19 league goals against the Andalusians, and 26 in all competitions. In fact, that’s more than he has scored against any other team.
A four-horse race?
But although Sevilla have generally failed to replicate their extraordinary Europa League form on the domestic front, things might be changing under Copa América winning coach Jorge Sampaoli.
With just one defeat this season (at Athletic Bilbao) and a 100% record on home turf, they’ll be eyeing this game with Barcelona as the chance to show that they have indeed joined the Catalans and the two Madrid clubs as serious contenders for the Liga title.
The possession game
We all know that Barça like to keep control of the ball and it comes as no surprise to see that the Catalans lead La Liga in that category once again with a whopping 68.3%. But in stark contrast to his predecessor Unai Emery’s caution-first approach, Sampaoli likes his teams to play the possession game too and they’re ranked second on 63.1%.
The Argentinian is a self-confessed Pep Guardiola admirer and especially with home advantage, expect Sevilla to claim their share of the initiative on Sunday night.
Three of the current Barça squad have a past at Sevilla. Ivan Rakitic had three great seasons at the club before joining FCB in 2014, the same summer that Aleix Vidal moved there from Almeria and Denis Suárez went to the Pizjuán on loan from Barça B.
Elsewhere in Spain
The fourth v second clash at the Sánchez Pizjuán is the last of this weekend’s Liga programme, so both teams will already know whether they have a chance of catching leaders Real Madrid, who are hosting neighbours Leganés for the first time ever on Sunday at 12.00pm CET. Third placed Atlético are at Real Sociedad the day before (4.15pm CET), while whoever loses in Seville could slip behind Villarreal, whose game with Betis will have just finished (6.30pm CET).
It’ll be worth settling down in front of the TV early for this one to enjoy the Sevilla anthem before it starts. While for us, nothing beats our own Cant del Barça, one can’t deny that El Arrebato is a pretty awesome piece of music too. The Andalusians love a sing-song, and hearing the home fans belt out the tune (penned by Javier Labandón for the club’s centenary in 2005) is always a spine-chilling moment.
Bring on Sunday!
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