What: Spanish La Liga
Who: Sevilla (8th; 38 points) vs Barcelona (1st; 74 points)
When: Sunday 13th March, 2011, at 21:00 UK time
Where: Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Seville, Spain

Not Enough

Considering how Sevilla managed to impose themselves as one of La Liga’s better sides in previous seasons, it has been surprising to witness just how inconsistently the Andalucian side are performing this season. With a mere 38 points after 27 fixtures – nearly half of Barcelona’s total – Los Rojiblancos’ European prospects in the foreseeable future remain doubtful. Should they truly want to enter European competition next term, the road to redemption starts here against leaders Barcelona.

Sevilla are not without their excuses though and there are reasons the previous UEFA Cup winners can point to for a poor campaign; injuries especially have ravaged their season, with Luis Fabiano being the latest player to hit the treatment table, as he was confirmed as being out of action for six weeks. While the Brazilian’s absence surely constitutes a major setback for the team, Fabiano has been a shadow of his previous self, having a below-par season so far, as the likes of Alvaro Negredo and Frederic Kanoute handled the side’s attacking responsibilities. Now, both will try to stop a strolling Barcelona juggernaut, which doesn’t seem like stopping any day now.

To the Next Round

Barcelona’s win over Arsenal in the Champions League means that the Blaugrana can now look forward to the quarter-finals, knowing that they have knocked out a team that plays near identical football along the way. After enduring a brief scare as Arsenal levelled the scoreline 1-1 at the Camp Nou – turning the tide in their favour – the match itself virtually ended with Robin van Persie’s dismissal, as the Gunners effectively crumbled with just ten men on the pitch. With the Champions League on the top shelf for the time being, the Cules can switch their attention back to La Liga.

Missing on club talisman and captain Carles Puyol in recent weeks, Josep Guardiola’s team nonetheless managed to keep on obtaining results, grinding out two precious 1-0 wins over Valencia and Real Zaragoza respectively, and managing to keep second-placed Real Madrid at bay. However, the club will welcome back Gerard Pique with open arms after he missed out on his side’s return leg against Arsenal due to an accumulated suspension. The presence of Pique in the centre of defence will no doubt cause a sigh of relief for Guardiola, who opted to deploy the likes of Eric Abidal and Sergio Busquets in the centre to cover.


Recent form

Atletico Madrid 2-2 Sevilla (26/02; La Liga)
Sevilla 3-0 Sporting Gijon (01/03; La Liga)
Athletic Bilbao 2-0 Sevilla (06/03; La Liga)

Valencia 0-1 Barcelona (02/03; La Liga)
Barcelona 1-0 Real Zaragoza (05/03; La Liga)
Barcelona 3-1 Arsenal (08/03; Champions League)

Key absences

Sergio Sanchez; Didier Zokora; Aouna Kone; Lautaro Acosta; Luca Cigarini; Ivica Dragutinovic; Luis Fabiano

Barcelona: Victor Valdes; Carles Puyol; Jeffren Suarez

Players to watch

Sevilla – Romaric: In the absence of compatriot Didier Zokora, the Ivorian will have to be entrusted with the task of breaking Barcelona’s midfield boiler room, thus preventing the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta playing their brand of football. An expert free-kick taker, Sevilla will no doubt also want to utilise Romaric to create dangerous situations from dead ball opportunities too.

Barcelona – Lionel Messi: The Argentine was on form yet again in midweek, striking two goals against Arsenal – the first being a complete masterclass – to sink the Gunners and win progression for his team. On such form, Messi must surely surpasses his exploits of last season, and playing in clear, high spirits, he should give the Sevillian defence a long evening.

Match Prediction

Usually a match played in a pressure-cooker atmosphere, Barcelona have it easy this time around. Not that the Blaugrana would need any luck to get past Sevilla on their day, but the fact that Gregorio Manzano’s team are enduring a run of such a mixed form makes them a more staightforward prospect for the visitors. Expect Barcelona to come away with a 3-0 victory.

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