Sevilla vs Barcelona has always been a great match-up full of emotion, passion, and determination. On a bizarre night in Seville, Barcelona fell short in the first leg of the semi-final in Copa del Rey. A competition that has been pointed by many as the only reasonable expectation for a trophy this season.
Sevilla vs Barcelona – the line-up
After the thoroughly entertaining game in the last round of the cup, extra-time thriller in Granada, Barcelona looked like they found the spark and can build on the five wins in a row and create that must-needed momentum to attack the final stretch of the season.
The strongest possible eleven returned to action. Ronald Koeman’s favourite trio in the midfield of Busquets-De Jong-Pedri was joined by Griezmann, Dembélé, and Messi in the attack. It seems like the manager decided to rotate the backline a few weeks ago. Lenglet and Umtiti are in-and-out of the team, Mingueza is split between playing as a centre back or right full-back, Araujo’s recent injury and Dest’s lack of fitness did not help the situation at all.
Review of the first half approach. Fatigue or nagging tendency?
The performance against Betis in the first half was bizarre. No energy, no determination, and nothing worthy in the final third. On Wednesday in Seville, the approach from the start was the same.
It only took the first 10 minutes for problems to appear. It almost felt like the players decided when to engage in high pressing and when should they drop deeper and let Sevilla have possession. The game started with little pressure on Koundé and Diego Carlos when they tried to carry the ball out. That did not make it more difficult for Sevilla.
The other thing worth mentioning, as usual, is the underwhelming performance from a defensive standpoint. It is difficult to pinpoint defensive mistakes to the whole team, as usually, goals come from an individual mistake. However, these are perfect examples of how Barcelona manages to combine the lack of defending as a unit and individual mistakes.
At the time of the pass, Umtiti is even deeper than Rakitic and there is simply no reason why Umtiti shouldn’t take on the challenge, run back and defend 1v1 against Rakitic.
The first goal is even more telling about the defensive situation in Barcelona. Jules Koundé runs past three Barcelona players, enters the penalty box, and shoots the ball without any resistance. A run resembling ski-slalom marked the fantastic performances of the French international this season.
Barcelona had problems all night with him. Playing as a defender helping to advance the ball, Koundé has that sense of when to attack the opposition area. He blends in perfectly with the approach from Sevilla, and when he sees an opportunity, he attacks.
He had all the time in the world to receive and place his shot. The defensive awareness in those situations is vital. Simply, don’t leave alone an opposing player in your box. Koundé should’ve scored.
Transition issues review or why Barcelona can’t create too much space
The effectiveness in defensive transitioning was also not on the required level. Letting situations regularly, similar to this one, will only cause more problems. Alejandro Gomez runs with the ball and through the support runs, Sevilla is in a position to create a 6v4 on the counter-attack. A better decision by Papu in that situation could’ve ensured the second goal for Sevilla earlier.
Just as a contrast comparison – one of the clearest opportunity for Barcelona came from a recovered ball and transition in attack. From a 3v3 scenario when Messi gets on the ball to the final shot, Sevilla already outnumbers Barcelona and has the situation mostly under control.
So once again, they missed another chance to kick-start their season. We see signs here and there, but no run of good, solid performances can be achieved all season. Not long from now, the chances for the aforementioned “kick start” will be gone, and with that, the only thing left will be the blame.
Tough game to be part of and a tough one to watch for the Culés around the world. The good news is that on the 3rd March, Sevilla travels to Catalunia for the second-leg. Another comeback will be needed to see Blaugrana go to the final.