Barcelona vs Sevilla:Eveything you have to know about this match
Barcelona’s uninspiring goalless draw in Athens against Olympiakos came at a cost, with Sergi Roberto and Andre Gomes both injured during the match. Both are likely to be sidelined for between three and five weeks with a thigh strain and hamstring injury respectively.
Andres Iniesta is recovering from a thigh injury of his own but Saturday is likely to come too soon for his return, so expect Paulinho to continue in his central midfield berth.
Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde insisted he was not concerned after Barcelona failed to score in a Champions League group stage game for the first time in five years, with a goalless draw against Olympiakos keeping them waiting to confirm progression out of Group D.
Victory in Greece would have booked Barca’s passage to the knockout phase, but the three points proved elusive on a night when Luis Suarez hitting the top of the crossbar was as close as the visitors came to scoring.
Barca last failed to find the net at this stage of the competition against Benfica in December 2012, but Valverde is relaxed with his team still three points clear.
“(Olympiakos) have done a great defensive job and were looking for a surprise on the counter-attack,” Valverde said.
“We have taken a step forward even if we have not obtained the result we were looking for to make sure of qualification.
“I do not worry about the lack of goals because we created chances and sooner or later the goals will come.”
Valverde led Olympiakos to three league titles and two domestic cups during two spells in charge, and the home fans showed their appreciation pre-match with a banner near the halfway line that read, “Ernesto gracias por todo” (Ernesto, thanks for everything).
Ernesto Valverde head coach of Athletic Bilbao during the first leg of UEFA Champions League qualifying play-offs round match between SSC Napoli and Athletic Club on August 19, 2014© Getty Images
Despite sitting at the top of the table, Barcelona are still searching for their best form under Ernesto Valverde, but there may come a point when the 53-year-old’s style of football features lower down on the club’s list of priorities.
Goals are not being scored at the same frequency as under Luis Enrique, but Barca are slowly turning in a juggernaut capable of churning out results with the club having avoided defeat in their last 15 games in all competitions.
The goalless draw at Olympiacos in the Champions League will be considered a blip, but it extended a period where Barca have conceded just four goals since August 20 and as it stands, Valverde’s side are seen as top dogs in Spain.
A lead of eight points has been established over Real Madrid – who continue to underperform on both the domestic and European stage – and Barca have an opportunity to at least maintain that advantage before the rivals meet at the Bernabeu on December 19.
Lionel Messi’s contribution has dropped off since the last international break, with two goals and two assists coming from five outings, but that has seen other members of the squad make a contribution.
That said, Valverde will be eager for an improvement from Luis Suarez, who has not netted in his last four appearances and has scored just three goals in 11 outings this season.
Either side of the international break, Sevilla suffered four defeats in six matches in all competitions and there was every suggestion that Berizzo’s men may struggle to keep pace in their bid for a top-four place.
However, three wins in a row – albeit just one in La Liga – has lifted the mood at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan and there is at least some belief within the club’s ranks ahead of one of football’s biggest tests.
Scorelines of 2-1 against Leganes and Spartak Moscow are far from convincing, but Berizzo will take the positives from being able to close out two tight matches on the spin at a time when nine goals had previously been shipped on trips to Russia and Valencia.
Finding a regular goalscorer remains a problem, with no player scoring more than two goals in La Liga this season, but Berizzo will hope that Wissam Ben Yedder’s effort against Leganes last weekend will be the start of a run for the Frenchman.
However, Sevilla have lost each of their last four important fixtures away from home, with their only success coming against minnows Cartagena in the Copa del Rey.
Aside from that win, only one goal has been scored in away trips to Atletico Madrid, Athletic Bilbao, Spartak Moscow and Valencia, so improvements will need to be made if the visitors are going to return to Seville with a positive result.
Competition: La Liga
Venue: Nou Camp,Barcelona
Date: Nov 4, 2017
Time: 7.45pm UK
Sergi Roberto in action for Barcelona during their La Liga clash with Granada at the Camp Nou on October 29, 2016© SilverHub
Valverde will be without both Sergi Roberto and Andre Gomes at the weekend after the pair sustained injuries against Olympiacos.
Roberto has been ruled out until December with a hamstring problem, while Gomes will not be available until the end of the month due to a thigh injury.
Barcelona possible starting lineup:Ter Stegen; Alba, Umtiti, Semedo, Mascherano; Busquets, Paulinho, Suarez; Deulofeu, Suarez, Messi
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) November 3, 2017
Sevilla possible starting lineup:Rico; Kjaer, Lenglet, Escudero, Mercado; Nzonzi, Banega, Pizarro; Sarabia, Nolito, Yedder
Gerard Deulofeu and Denis Suarez are likely to feature in their place, while Lucas Digne is in contention for a recall in defence.
Berizzo has a decision to make regarding his goalkeeper, with Sergio Rico and David Soria both been handed game time in recent weeks.
Jesus Navas may have to start another fixture on the bench after only being named as a replacement for Sevilla’s recent wins.
Sevilla may have improved of late, but i still do not think that they will be much of a match for Barca. Valverde’s men have not exactly been in fantastic form but after failing to score in midweek, expect a response at the weekend.
I will go with a 2-0 win for Barca