Sevilla host Barcelona in La Liga on Saturday afternoon, and it is a game that will have huge ramifications for those in the upper echelons of the table. As far as Ronald Koeman is concerned, there is little room for error, especially with the Barcelona presidential elections looming. Whoever takes over could determine whether Koeman is granted a stay of execution.
Barcelona and Koeman facing defining period
Over the next 10 days, we will learn a lot more about Barcelona and perhaps the future of Koeman. Barca cut the gap to leader Atletico Madrid at the top of the table to five points with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Elche last night. Lionel Messi grabbed a brace to take his tally to 18 in La Liga this campaign.
Away from La Liga, things have unravelled for Barca. Aside from the Copa del Rey failings against Sevilla, Barcelona have a mountain to climb in the second leg of their last-16 Champions League tie against Paris Saint-Germain. Meanwhile, Sevilla, under Julen Lopetegui, have been in fabulous form this term and near watertight at the back, conceding 16 goals in 23 games.
- Sevilla to beat Barcelona @3.25 with Casumo
- Luuk de Jong first goalscorer @8.5 with Casumo
Will Ivan Rakitic rub salt into Barcelona’s wounds again?
After spending six trophy-laden years at the Nou Camp, Ivan Rakitic returned to the club that gave him his break in La Liga. The Croatian midfielder has repaid Sevilla, and he was on target in the 2-0 win over Barcelona in the Copa del Rey semi-final a fortnight ago. And he will be hoping to pile the misery on his former club once again.
Lopetegui continues to make waves at Sevilla
Under Lopetegui, Sevilla have gone from strength to strength, and they have a realistic shot at the La Liga title despite Diego Simeone’s brilliance at Atletico Madrid. In his first season in charge of Sevilla, Lopetegui inspired his side to Europa League glory, and they seem well-equipped to topple the established order of Spanish football.
Sevilla can put Champions League woes to one side
Despite slipping to a 3-2 defeat at home to Borussia Dortmund in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie, Sevilla remain one of the in-form sides in La Liga. They have only lost once in 2021 and that came at the hands of Atletico.
Atletico Madrid must heed lessons from Chelsea defeat against Villarreal
A 1-0 defeat for Atletico in the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie against Chelsea earlier this week raised concerns about the health of Spanish football. Diego Simeone’s charges appeared to regress and adopt a more defensive mindset, which is not something we have become accustomed to this season. However, against Villarreal on Sunday, they need to increase the intensity.
Luis Suarez, who has had a ball since moving to the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium from Barcelona last summer, was largely a peripheral figure against the Blues. However, the talismanic Uruguayan is only second to Messi in the goalscoring charts this term (16). He will pose problems for Villarreal, who are in a good position to seal a top-six spot.
- Atletico Madrid to beat Villarreal on Sunday @3.3 with Casumo
- Luis Suarez to score anytime for Atletico Madrid @2.38 with Casumo
Atletico, meanwhile, are in the midst of an injury crisis. Five players missed the defeat against Chelsea, including winner Yannick Carrasco who underwent an MRI scan on a knee injury last week, and it is unclear when he will return to action.
Villarreal ready to burst Atletico’s bubble
While Atletico have rightly deserved all the plaudits for their vibrant brand of attacking football, Villarreal have ambitions of their own. In the previous meeting between the two sides back in October, both sides played out a drab goalless draw.
In terms of head-to-head, there is nothing separating the two sides as Sunday’s clash will mark the 38th La Liga meeting. Both sides have enjoyed 13 wins apiece and there have been 11 draws. Meanwhile, Unai Emery will return to the touchline for Villarreal after serving a two-match ban for remonstrating with the official during his side’s 2-1 defeat to Real Betis earlier this month.