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Preseason games are great for getting in the mood for the football season, but it is from now on that things start to get really serious. It’s time to battle for the first major trophy of 2016/17 and it’s the only one that Luis Enrique has yet to win as Barça manager – the Spanish Super Cup.
The curtain-raiser to the Spanish season features the reigning champions of La Liga and the Copa del Rey. But double winning Barça can’t play themselves, so as tradition dictates, they will instead face the side they beat 2-0 in the cup final at the Vicente Calderón in May, Sevilla, winners of the last three editions of the Europa League.
Barça are without Marc-André ter Stegen through injury while Neymar Jr and Rafinha are representing Brazil in the Olympic Games. Douglas, Samper and Jordi Alba have been left out of the 18-man squad for technical reasons.
Sevilla keeper David Soria is unfit, and will be replaced by reserve stopper José Antonio Caro. And that’s not the only concern for the Andalusians, especially in defence where Carriço, Kolo and Nico Pareja are all unavailable. But it looks like defensive midfielder Iborra will be able to play.
Speaking at his Saturday morning press conference, Luis Enrique said that “Sevilla look different this year. They’ve made a lot of changes. I like Sampaoli’s philosophy. It’s attractive for the fans. Sevilla is a well-structured team that has set standards in Europe and in our league.”
His counterpart Jorge Sampaoli adds that “the best way to defend against a team that likes to play the ball so much is to try and get the ball off them. If we can match them for possession, we’ll be able to hurt them.” He also commented on how much he is looking forward to a reunion with his compatriot Claudio Bravo, who captained the Chile side that he coached to the 2015 Copa America title.
Barça have won three of their four preseason fixtures, against Celtic, Leicester and Sampdoria, but lost 4-0 to Liverpool at Wembley. Luis Enrique was quizzed on Saturday about the high number of goals, nine, that his team has leaked in these games. But it’s not a matter he is too concerned about, saying that unusually high scores are quite normal in warm-up matches like those.
Sevilla’s preseason started with two wins in the United States against River Plate (Argentina) and Independiente Santa Fe (Colombia), after which they collected two further victories in Germany against St Pauli and Mainz 05. But they missed out on the European Super Cup, played in Norway, when they lost 3-2 to Real Madrid after extra time. The game with Barça will be their first appearance of the season on home turf at the Sanchez Pizjuán.
Since the Spanish Super Cup was first contested in 1982, Barça have won the trophy more times than any club, eleven, while 2007 brought Sevilla their solitary triumph. This is the second time that these two clubs have met in the final. In 2010, Barça spectacularly turned around a 3-1 first leg loss by winning the return at the Camp Nou 4-0. Leo Messi scored a hat-trick that day and with eleven goals is the highest goalscorer in Super Cup history.
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