Two and a half weeks back, at the Ramon Sanchez Stadium, Sevilla shocked Barcelona at the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal.  Ronald Koeman felt the pressure of fetching full points at the same venue and keep the fight alive and n the end his boys did not disappoint.

The fourth-placed Sevilla faced Barcelona as the Catalans looked to close the gap on league leaders Atletico Madrid and obviously, take upper-hand on their arch-rivals Real Madrid.

Julen Lopetegui made three changes to the side that beat Osasuna 2-0 away from home last time out. Rekik, Torres, and Suso all dropped to the bench, with Escudero and former Barcelona pair Rakitic and El Haddadi coming into the side.

Meanwhile, Koeman made four alterations after his team recorded a 3-0 win over Elche in their last fixture. Umtiti, Trincao, and Braithwaite are benched, while Miralem Pjanic is ruled out through injury. Lenglet, Dest, Busquets, and Dembele are the quartets who took their places in the starting line-up.

Koeman lined-up in a 3-4-1-2 formation against Lopetegui’s 4-2-3-1.

The three-man center-back and playing the wing-backs higher-up the pitch hinted of a conservative approach, but as a matter of fact, the Barca wing-backs are suited to advance forward and aid the attackers, thus, this ploy should suit and would provide the solidity as well. He did not wish to left any spaces in the center of the park for his opponents to exploit.

In the opening ten minutes, the affair was cagey with Barca struggled to build up because they are more accustomed to the 4-3-3 system, but in this 3-4-1-2 formation they had the history to pummeling opponents under Johan Cruyff and what required was to get on to the front foot as early as possible.

After ten minutes, Barca looked more settled and gained control over the ball.

They won a couple of corners, but the set-pieces did not trouble the home side.

Barca build-up was gaining momentum but a succession of tackles by the home side disturbed the buildup of Barca.

Dembele advanced towards the edge of the box and cut inside before attempting to curl a shot inside the far post with his left foot, but Bounou dived across and held on confidently. Then Lionel Messi swung a free-kick in from a deep position on the right and it swerved sharply towards the near side of the goal, but Bounou hung on.

The pressure put on by Barca resulted in breaking the deadlock.

Messi collected the ball up on the halfway line and slid a perfectly-weighted pass in behind for Dembele, who raced between two Sevilla defenders and into the box before tucking a low shot through the goalkeeper’s legs and into the far corner – the boy France scored his 26th goal for Barca, one short of Antoine Griezmann.

But it was Messi who exploited the highline of Sevilla which created the space and the Argentine punished them.

A few minutes later, Dembele outweighed his marker on the right with a neat turn and fired a low ball into Messi on the edge of the box, who slid on the left for De Jong – took it to the byline instead of attempting a shot and tried to cut it back into the middle for Messi, but Bounou intervened.

Dest was fed in an advanced position on the right and he cut-back inside Escudero before unleashing a strike towards the top-right corner, which flew over the bar.

Barca were rhythmic and the Sevilla defenders tried to break it by committing fouls which resulted in bookings.

But this Barca had been in the mood this afternoon and it would not be easy to stop them.

After the break, Lopetegui made three changes and as the game went on, Sevilla started to press more.

Well, Barca had their reply with Dembele slipping the ball through for De Jong, who played across for Messi to finish the job,   but the pass was just ahead of the Barcelona captain and he could not get a touch despite sliding in for it.

Dembele was having one of the best games in a Barca shirt as he drove down the left drawing Bounou off his line before cleverly checking back onto his right and laying the ball off to Messi on the edge of the box who fired over the bar.

Before that Alba played into acres of space on the left side and he smashed a low ball into the danger zone – it went for Dest on the right side of the area and he lashed a ferocious effort towards the top-right corner, but it hit the post.

The Barca attack continued through Messi who floated a free-kick in the middle and Lenglet beat Bounou to score – sadly the fag was up.

With ten minutes remaining – En-Nesyri was found in the Barcelona box and held off the challenge of Araujo, who came in for Pique, before turning and tucking a shot inside the near post, but the goal was ruled out as the Sevilla forward handled the ball in the buildup.

With such a slender lead one cannot settle and the memories of Cadiz looming large in the minds of the fans, Messi played a quick one-two with Moriba on the left to get away from Jordan, before dancing past the challenge of Fernando and entered the box. The ball broke to him against the onrushing Bounou, allowing him to tap into an empty net – the victory was confirmed.

Clearly, Barca had the edge at the center of the park and their buildup was sound. Most of the attacks (34%) came from the right-hand side of the field with Dest playing a key role. De Jong ran the show in the midfield and never allowed the opponents to gain the upper hand.

The midfield was smarter enough to steal from the opponents. The players were potent enough to create goal-scoring opportunities through individual skills, counterattacks, and through-balls. Most importantly, their finishing was good – 22% of conversion rate in comparison to Sevilla’s 0%.


Important win for Barca who move to second place, one point ahead of Real Madrid and two points short of Atletico Madrid.

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