Barcelona hoping to bounce back from draw against Mallorca
Friday night’s stand-alone fixture in La Liga is a headline-grabbing one, as the 2022-23 champions ,and pre-season title favorites, Barcelona welcome the Europa League holders Sevilla to their temporary base of Montjuic Stadium.
Despite sitting in third place in the standings behind unlikely early pace-setters Girona and Real Madrid, Xavi’s side have made an unbeaten start to the campaign with five wins and two draws from their opening seven fixtures.
A 2-2 draw away at Mallorca last time out ended a run of six wins on the bounce in all competitions, including back-to-back 5-0 hammerings of Real Betis and Royal Antwerp in the league and Champions League, respectively.
Barcelona will hope to use the mental resilience that was shown in spades against Javier Aguirre’s side to begin another winning run on Friday.
Jose Luis Mendilibar’s Sevilla have had a mixed start to the 2023-24 La Liga season following their glorious penalty shootout victory over Roma in the Europa League final back in May.
The Andalusians travel to the northeast in good spirits, however, after thumping Almeria 5-1 at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in their last match.
Five different scorers were on the board for the Sevillistas that day: Youssef En-Nesyri, Dodi Lukebakio, Suso, Erik Lamela and Luis Suarez.
A statement victory over Barcelona on Friday, and their third league win in four, could take them just a point outside the last European place of seventh in the embryonic table.
Sevilla have a dire record against Barcelona though, having not beaten them in a La Liga fixture since a 2-1 home triumph in 2015.
Key midfielder Pedri remains unavailable for Barcelona with a thigh injury, but has recently returned to training so his reintegration shouldn’t be far away.
Another long-term absentee is Netherlands international Frenkie de Jong, who is facing time on the treatment table with an ankle issue.
Defenders Andreas Christiansen, Ronald Araujo and Inigo Martinez are all fit again after each suffering muscle strains.
Former Sevilla stalwart Joules Kounde will hold the hosts’ defense together alongside the Denmark and ex Chelsea player.
Joao Felix will hope to continue his fine start to life at the Nou Camp side, and he’ll be partnered in attack by Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha.
Sevilla will be without several first-team players, as Oliver Torres, Marcos Acuna, Mariano Diaz, Marcao, Alfonso Pastor and Tanguy Nianzou are all out.
The fact that Mendilibar’s side spread goals throughout the team in their last match, is hugely beneficial amid their injury crisis.
Morocco’s World Cup hero En-Nesyri, Lamela and former Barcelona man Ivan Rakitic will be their attacking torch-bearers in Friday’s tough away assignment.
Likely lineups and prediction
Ter Stegen; Roberto, Kounde, Christiansen, Balde; Gavi, Romeu, Gundogan; Felix, Lewandowski, Raphinha
Nyland; Navas, Bade, Ramos, Pedrosa; Sow, Fernando; Suso, Rakitic, Lukebakio; En-Nesyri
The visitors have the discipline and experience to be stubborn opponents for Xavi’s men.
The hosts’ have confidence coursing through their veins at the moment, however, and Lewandowski will fancy his chances of being the difference-maker against the aging Ramos and Navas in the opposition’s defense.
Barcelona 2 Sevilla 1