Seville/Barcelona, Spain, Feb 26 (efe-epa).- Sevilla and Barcelona are gearing up for the first of two encounters in just five days in what will be a test of the Andalusians’ mettle with a third-place spot in the league and a date in the Copa del Rey final both on the line.
Things kick-off at the Sánchez-Pizjuán on Saturday as Lionel Messi and co. travel down to Seville with the goal of not ceding any more ground in LaLiga. Last year’s champions Real Madrid are currently second, behind cross-town rivals Atlético Madrid.
Julen Lopetegui’s men are in fine form domestically, with five consecutive league wins under their belt as well as a game in hand against the Catalan giants.
Sevilla won their last encounter against Ronald Koeman’s Barça, beating the side 2-0 in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final just over two weeks ago, a lead they hope to hold or extend when the pair meet again, this time at the Camp Nou, on Wednesday.
By their own standards, Barcelona head into the double duel against Sevilla at a low point. Memories of the 0-2 defeat to the Andalusians in the Copa’s first-leg are still fresh and a win against Elche in the league this week does little to heal the bruising of the team’s 1-4 loss to Paris Saint-German at the Camp Nou in the Champions League.
Sevilla have injury problems in the shape of Marcos Acuña and Lucas Ocampos but can rely on the formidable center-half duo of Koundé and Diego Carlos, captain Jesús Navas as well as former Barcelona player Ivan Rakitic in midfield.
Koeman’s formation revolves around the continued absences of Sergi Roberto, Philippe Coutinho and Ansu Fati, so it is likely that Sergio Busquets, Frenkie de Jong and Pedri González will run in midfield behind his go-to attacking trio of Ousmane Dembélé, Antoine Griezmann and Messi. EFE-EPA