Sevilla v Barcelona – Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán at 19:45 live on Sky Sports 1
The game of the weekend in La Liga pits together fourth-placed Sevilla and second-placed Barcelona on Sunday with just one point separating the two sides coming into the contest.
Sevilla have managed a solitary success in 17 against Barca and been beaten in each of their last four fixtures with the Catalans. But this showdown has a different feel for it – the Andalusians arrive in excellent condition whilst the defending champions can be accused of complacency.
Barcelona were deservedly beaten at the Etihad in midweek despite taking a 1-0 lead against Manchester City. In fact, Luis Enrique’s charges were in control of the match, looking assured and comfortable for the first 40 minutes.
However, the Blaugrana inexplicably stopped playing and allowed City a route back into the contest. With momentum swinging in favour of Pep Guardiola’s hosts, Barca had no answer and appeared battered and bruised by the result when the final whistle was blown.
It’s been a familiar feeling amongst fans of the Catalans. Last weekend Barca were dreadful when squeezing past rock-bottom and winless Granada at the Camp Nou and seven days earlier they required a last-gasp penalty to see off a Valencia outfit that enjoyed the lion’s share of the fixture.
Sunday night’s visitors have already been beaten at home by Alaves this season and how could we ignore the chaotic display when losing 4-3 at Celta Vigo not so long ago? Barcelona were 3-0 down in that encounter before an unsuccessful attempt at a comeback.
Catalans can’t stop conceding
In 17 games this season, Luis Enrique’s group have conceded on nine occasions and leaked at least two goals in five matches. Their lackadaisical defensive performances have been even worse in the absence of Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta and Jordi Alba, especially with Sergio Busquets bang out-of-form.
Lucas Digne and Javier Mascherano should start once again in the guests backline and with the Blaugrana appearing very vulnerable in their own third, Sevilla should be capable of keeping this showdown competitive despite their ugly head-to-head record.
Sevilla impressing under Sampaoli
Los Rojiblancos cruised to a 4-0 victory over Dinamo Zagreb in midweek, extending their home winning streak at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in La Liga and Champions League action this season to seven.
Atletico Madrid left empty-handed here not so long ago and Jorge Sampaoli’s side have already picked up a point away at Juventus in continental action. It’s still early days but the ex-Chile head coach has made a really positive impression in the Spanish game.
This weekend the home side are without suspended Gabriel Mercado. Sergio Escudero should continue to fill in whilst Samir Nasri’s involvement remains a doubt. Franco Vazquez and Joaquin Correa are hoping to be included in the starting XI should the Frenchman fail a fitness test.
The Asian Handicap angle
The Andalusians are renewed specialists at the Sanchez Pizjuan – they’ve won 19 of their previous 22 La Liga games here – and I get the impression that record could be extended on Sunday.
Although Barcelona have been below-par this term, it’s still hard to completely write off the Champions League favourites and so with advantages odds, I’ll happily get stuck into the 1.91 available on Sevilla with a +1 start on the Asian Handicap market.
If Barca bring their A-game, it’s still hard to see the Catalans heading home with anything better than a win by a one-goal margin.
Asian Handicap Betting Recommendation: Sevilla +1 at 1.91
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