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In the last game before the final international break of the year, FC Barcelona host fifth-placed Sevilla as they look to continue their wonderful start to the campaign (8.45pm CET). The game should also see Leo Messi make his 600th official appearance in the famous blaugrana shirt.
Ousmane Dembélé, Rafinha, Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan were already on the casualty list, but André Gomes and Sergi Robertoboth returned from Greece with new injuries.
With Barça’s midfield somewhat decimated, it comes as welcome relief to know that Andrés Iniesta is back in the squad after training as normal with the squad on Friday evening.
The full squad for the game is thus as follows: Ter Stegen, Cillessen, Semedo, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio, Denis Suárez, Iniesta, Suárez, Messi, Mascherano, Paulinho, Deulofeu, Paco Alcácer, Jordi Alba, Digne, Umtiti and Vermaelen.
The visitors’ plans have been hit by an injury to Argentinian defender Gaby Mercado, but his compatriot Éver Banega and midfielder Pablo Sarabia are back to full fitness.
His counterpart Eduardo Berizzo got some decent results against FCB as Celta boss, and now in the Sevilla hot-seat he offered that “all games can be won and we have the weapons to do so … We’ll need to spend a lot of energy making Barça uncomfortable because if they get to dominate, they can smother you. When that happens, the goal seems very far away and the game goes on forever. I’d rather see us taking risks and putting pressure on their goal.”
Barça are on a 17-match unbeaten run, a record matched only by Manchester City (18) and Napoli (23) in Europe’s five biggest leagues. With nine wins and one draw, things are looking fantastic, but it might be worth remembering that we had the same record this time four years ago and Atlético Madrid ended up winning the league. So there’s plenty more work to do…
Meanwhile, a lot has been said about Sevilla’s poor form this season. But they are still fifth in the table, so it can’t all be bad news! And their midweek victory against Spartak Moscow has got their Champions League campaign back on track too.
Sevilla have a torrid record at the Camp Nou of late. Of their last 14 visits, there have been a couple of draws, but the other 12 games all ended in defeats. We have to go back the 2002/03 season for the last time Barça lost this fixture.
But Sevilla’s struggles in the stadium are not a new phenomenon. In six decades since it was built, they have only won three league games here.
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