Barca’s team sheet for Saturday’s match made it interesting to read as Ronald Koeman went with three midfielders, leaving Antoine Griezmann on the bench again.
It turned out to be a big decision from the Barca boss as his new system worked perfectly and drew an excellent performance and all three points.
Barca controlled the whole match and won it through goals from Ousmane Dembele and Lionel Messi, although the visitors probably should have had a few more.
The new system also brought another clean sheet in a row and allowed Sevilla very few goals.
It also seemed to get the best out of a number of players, including Dembele, Sergio Busquets and Sergino Dest. Oscar Mingueza also had a fine game back in midfield. All in all, a good afternoon work from all concerned.
Of course, that was not all good news for Barcelona as the Catalans saw Pedri and Ronald Araujo travel in the second half. Barca have since confirmed that Pedri has a muscle injury and now appears to be a bit spelled out.
Araujo also went out 15 minutes after returning from an ankle injury. Barca have not offered an injury update suggesting the problem is not serious and he seemed to want to come back but Koeman refused to take any risk.
The Uruguayan had appeared to start Wednesday’s Copa del Rey clash alongside Gerard Pique in central defense, but it is not clear now whether he will return to starting XI or which formation Koeman will join draw.
Pedri’s injury allowed 18-year-old Ilaix Moriba a few more first team minutes, and the teenager certainly got the most out of them. The youth produced a great move to send Lionel Messi away to Barca’s second and was rewarded with a big hug from the captain.
Ilaix was seen and thanked Koeman for the opportunity after the match and it was definitely a big call to throw the youngster in the last 20 minutes of the match with the score still at 1-0.
Pedri is likely to miss Wednesday’s Copa del Rey match on Wednesday, meaning we could possibly see Ilaix again at the Camp Nou. It’s another big decision that Koeman will have to make, but he certainly seems to have a lot of confidence in the kid, which is nice to see.
Dembele sent Barca on their road to victory with their first goal in 2021 and finished a race of 16 games without a goal for the Frenchman.
The 23-year-old took his goal well and his huge smile as he turned away to celebrate was lovely to see.
Dembele’s pace caused the Sevilla defense to cause all sorts of problems and a brilliant run should have brought a goal for Messi, but the captain fired wastefully over the line.
Still, it was yet another impressive display by the Argentine as he collected his 19th league goal of the season late to extend his lead over Pichichi.
The goal was Messi’s 30th against Sevilla in La Liga and the fifth straight game in all competitions where he scored. Messi has also found the networking side in each of his last eight league games.
It is also worth pointing out that Messi also picked up his fourth reservation of the season. One more and he will be subject to an automatic ban on a match.
Both the result and the performance against Sevilla will create faith that Barcelona can continue and make the necessary comeback when the two teams meet again in three days’ time at the Camp Nou.
The Copa del Rey still looks like Barca’s best chance for silverware, but it needs a similar performance again to come back from 2-0 and reserve a place in the final.
Barca want to know that they can not really afford to cash in another goal and will have to take their chances when they come. An early goal would definitely help, though let’s not forget that Barca were 2-0 down with two minutes to go to Granada earlier in the tournament.
Gerard Pique spoke about Barca’s title hopes after the match, but also admitted that if the team does the job on Wednesday, “the season will change completely.”
Another dramatic week awaits.