Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Preview : Sevilla

Venue : Camp Nou, Barcelona

A regular follower of any league is accustomed to taking delight in big encounters between the top clubs as they turn up during the course of the season. The arrangement instituted by the Spanish League authorities where all such encounters are played within the space of 4 weeks creating a minileague of sorts is unusual to say the least and downright inconvenient when they also coincide with the final stages of European competition. Still, as it is, the last few weeks are a treat in store for Barça fans who have the opportunity to watch their team make the final push for glory through the most taxing schedule possible.

The minileague restarted last week when Sevilla took on Valencia and lost 3-1 in a heated encounter. Barça established their superiority by winning all the matches in the minileague in the first phase of the season, starting with a 3 - 0 rout of Sevilla (including a Messi special) at the Rámon Sánchez Pizjuán. They took away 12 points from the 4 matches, scoring 11 goals and conceding only 1, against Sevilla, Valencia, Madrid and Villareal. By comparison, Sevilla got 7 points and Madrid 6 from these games.

Manolo Jimenez’s dour and defensive tactics have withstood much abuse by Sevilla fans and taken them to 3rd in the standings with a lead cut to 5 points after the loss to Valencia. They are 15 points behind Madrid but seem likely to see European football next season. Sevilla have a good away record with half their points and goals scored coming away from home. After the loss in the Seville derby to Betis they went on a run of 6 wins and 1 draw before losing to Getafe and Valencia. The 44 goals they have scored however is the worst offensive record among the top 6 teams.

Sevilla are heavily dependent on Freddi Kanoute for their offense. In the offensive build up, Kanoute drops deep in to midfield(into the Yaya Zone) to hold up the ball and redistribute it to the flanks. Kanoute’s intelligence and physical presence make it difficult to steal the ball from him. Guardiola in the first leg, hence used Keita to try and curb the distribution to the flanks and he may very well use the same tactic again.

Jimenez has shifted from his earlier traditional true wingers formation to a more fluid one by removing the left winger and allowing Navas the freedom of both wings. Renato operates in a creative role behind the strikers while the impressive Perotti, recently promoted from the Sevilla Athletic squad, turns up in the box to score goals. Diego Capel of the giddying runs is relegated to the bench while Adriano has been shifted to a full-back position where Sevilla are yet to find an adequate replacement for Dani Alves.

The heated Valencia game means that Adriano and GK Palop are suspended. Javi Varas who had one start in the league against Numancia so far this season will line up in goal while Jimenez may have to revert back to using Mosquera at right back. The leaden footed Mosquera is likely to face more problems with the tricky Iniesta rather than Henry who has started to shade more to the centre in recent games. The right full-back position is Sevilla’s weakest link in defence and Guardiola will look to target it.

Abidal may be expected back in the line-up for Barça to deal with Jesus Navas. Navas is an intelligent winger who does not attempt to beat his marker every time, before he delivers his cross. His crosses are thus often low or early but Kanoute and Fabiano are savvy to this type of service. Playing Fabiano and Kanoute together will complicate things for Barça’s defence when handling Navas’ crosses besides also allowing Sevilla to keep the Barça defensive line deep, when Kanoute drops into midfield. Jimenez has indicated that he does not think it is possible to win at the Camp Nou by parking the bus and playing on the counter yet, it will be unexpected from him to line up 2 strikers rather than 5 across the midfield.

One of the 3 centre-backs might have to drop to the bench for Barça and it could most likely be Marquez since Pique is required for his height and captain Puyol with his ferocious drive and inspirational presence will be difficult to keep out of the line-up. The holding position in midfield should see the return of the commanding Yaya.

At the time of writing there is no word yet on Messi’s condition. A stomach bug can be energy sapping so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Messi start on the bench. Barca have more than adequate cover in Iniesta, perhaps the only player in the world who can come close to Messi with his dribbling skills. Xavi is likely to be subject to some tough challenges from Romaric and particularly Dushcer, the hard tacklers in Sevilla’s midfield.

Predicted Lineups :

Barça : Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, Toure, Keita, Xavi, Henry, Eto’o, Iniesta

Sevilla : Javi Varas, Mosquera, Squillaci, Escude, Navarro, Duscher, Romaric, Navas, Renato, Perotti, Kanoute

Thats both former Sevilla players Keita and Alves lining up in my formation and hopefully both will play out of their skins against their former club. Speaking of former players, a bit of trivia for you: Undoubtedly the biggest name to play for both clubs was Diego Maradona who, after his first ban, made his return to football at Sevilla joining mentor Carlos Bilardo who was then the coach of Sevilla.

Well anyway, here is looking to another Barça win and another 90 minutes to record in Valdes’ portfolio when he presents his renewal claims in the summer ... sorry, I mean another clean sheet. Busquets, Toure, Eto'o and Xavi are all within one yellow card of a suspension and it may be better off to have at least a few of these being incurred during the Valencia game up next rather than risk having them miss El Classico next week.

Prediction : Barça 3 – 0 Sevilla


fcbee said...

Good preview, kami. I think Capel will play though. They might boost their midfield with three fighters and then leave it up to Capel, Fabiano and Kanouté up front.

Winning this would (again...) be an impoirtant step. Maybe even the decisive one. With the poor way they're playing (plus Pepe out for a nupber of games), you just can't see Madrid win against us in the Bernabeu and against Sevilla, Valencia and Villarreal (all away). Their luck has to end some day!!! Although I'm thinking that already for a while now...

Anonymous said...

Don't worry, their (RM's) luck will be terminated soon, very soon. They play Sevilla (away), Barca (home) and than Valencia and Villarreal (both away). They'll lose everything.

But, Barca must stay focused on their matches and that's it. Beating RM at Bernabeu and winning La Liga will be great.

djoef said...

With four games to go after the clasico, it's almost impossible to win the title in the Bernabeu now. Unless we win our next two games and Madrid loses against Sevilla. Well, in the end that's not thàt impossible, now I think of it... Although we just should focus on our games: Sevilla at home and Valencia away. Then Chelsea at home and Madrid away.

Go, go, go!!!

Knives Out said...

It was really unfortunate how Madrid won last night. But I guess we should just focus and get a good result today.

In any case I am sure they will pick up more cards before the classico and serve bans. Cannavaro is 1 shy of a ban for collecting 3 cards I think. Pepe, as well all know is most definitely going to miss the classico so that's a relief.

Hope we can conserve energy and give results to all the hard work that has gone in since the beginning of the season!

Meursault said...

Excellent preview, thanks.

Will Eto'o get himself an intentional card against Sevilla again this time around? From memory, he was in the same position last time, got the card, missed the Valencia game and was back for the classico. Perhaps it wouldn't be altogether bad if he did the same this time so he was fresh for Chelsea and to give Bojan a game. Losing any more than two of Xavi, Eto'o and Toure for the Valencia game could however give some initiative back to (lucky) Madrid. I guess they'll work this out late in the game depending on how things are going.

Marc4barca said...

robben and sneijder are out of the clash too. higauin is the only threat anyways but then again i never see him perform in a big match yet.. looks like we have another big game flop on the horizon. a lay down on real madrid squad. lassana would probably play right back and ramos in cb. no problems here as henry vs lassana is a good match up and eto'o vs ramos lol all i can say is poor ramos he like alves is not a defender but a right-attacking-wing-half defending-support striker, i would prefer that cause guti gago partnership has never impressed me as a dm partnership gago is clumsy and guti is just slow and performs every 5 games(if he gets play) only thing he does is score freekicks(like we haven't faced a team like that before*lyon*)i think barca has the midfield battle won if he plays that DM partnership. marcelo is good going forward(robinho look a like)but is not a proven defender messi will probably win like 4 freekicks on by the corner flag lol, huntelaar has proven inaffective unless a rebound comes his way(seriously out of this guys 8 goals 4 were like rebounds, 1 offside and 1 deflection) raul is nowhere to be found and for some reason goes to sleep in el classico(thank god ruud is injured). casillas has made mediocre saves all season(love casillas by the way)but since real has been winning(sigh)those end up being top saves, no need to worry bout casillas. last but surely least is cannovaro, only thing good about this guy is......nvm. he only plays well when pepe is on the field and is quite wild at times won't be surprised if we get a penalty(this time around, past two games were hard to take, felt like murdering referee's).

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