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Interestingly, four-time UEFA Super Cup winners Barcelona actually lost 3-0 to Sevilla when the two faced-off in the 2006 edition of UEFA’s annual match between the winners of the two biggest European club cups.
But the Catalan side weren’t the force they are now then – not quite – and a Sevilla team that contained Dani Alves had just had one of the best seasons in the club’s history, coming very close to winning the league with their strong home form and brand of swashbuckling football.
Fast forward to 2015, and while Sevilla are surely amongst the top ten club teams in Europe based on recent achievements, Barcelona were in a league of their own in the 2014/15 season, winning the Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey titles.
But it wasn’t as easy as it sounds for Luis Enrique’s Barcelona last season, as the former Real Madrid and Barca player – in his debut season as coach at the club – took a while to learn his best line-up, rarely fielding the same eleven, and also fell out with star player Lionel Messi.
After a flurry of early wins, Barca drew 0-0 away to Malaga – at a ground where they’d regularly prospered in the past – lost 1-0 away to Real Sociedad, 1-0 at home to Celta Vigo and drew 0-0 at lowly Getafe.
Messi wasn’t scoring goals, or talking to coach Enrique in an internal power struggle, Barca were twelve points behind Real Madrid in the title race and you wondered how long it would be before Enrique was sacked. After all, if one of Messi or Enrique had to go, there was only going to be one winner – Messi.
But Enrique gave ground, changed his attitude a little and Messi and co turned things around, racking-up win after win while Real Madrid faltered. With Messi, Suarez and Neymar as the first choice front three, a goal-laden Catalan side eventually won every trophy they could in 2014/15.
Since then, Barcelona have added midfielders Aleix Vidal (from Sevilla) and Arda Turan, with veteran schemer Xavi leaving for Qatar, fringe players Montaya and Deulofeu also leaving the club and winger/forward Pedro set to join Manchester United after the UEFA Super Cup.
Moving on to Unai Emery’s Sevilla and the first thing to point out is that they’re the only team to retain the Europa League after winning in 2013/14 as well as 2014/5.
Furthering their pedigree in Europe, Los Rojiblancos also hold the distinction of being the record Europa League/UEFA Cup winners with a total of four titles. A historically strong side on home soil, Sevilla went undefeated at their Ramon Sanchez stadium for most of the 2014/15 season, eventually finishing fifth in La Liga.
A well-organized team with no real star player, Sevilla started last season off by drawing 1-1 at home to Valencia. On the balance of play and even though Valencia had to cope with just ten men for most of the game due to a red card, Sevilla were very lucky not lose that day – and we wouldn’t have been talking about the long undefeated streak in Seville that followed if they had tasted defeat.
But besides a 4-0 thrashing away to Atletico Madrid a few games later, Sevilla had a drama-free campaign, generally winning when they were expected to and capable of beating any team at home.
Although they eventually missed out on the fourth and final Champions League qualifying berth, the Andalusian’s gained a slot in UEFA’s premier club tournament in 2015/16 by virtue of winning the 2014/15 Europa League.
In terms of notable players sold or signed, Sevilla signed forward Ciro Immobile on a season-long loan from Borussia Dortmund to replace Carlos Bacca, who departed for AC Milan, while ex-Valencia centre-back Adil Rami joined from the same Italian club. Midfielder Aleix Vidal – who’d played well since joining the club from Almeria – was sold to Barcelona but can’t play for the club until January 2016 due to a transfer embargo imposed by the world football governing body, FIFA.
In terms of 90-minute betting, Barcelona are priced around 1/3, the draw is generally 9/2 and a Sevilla victory is offered at approximately 8/1. For Asian handicap bettors, the standard line is set at – 1.5 Barca with an approximate 9/10 price, and + 1.5 Sevilla at a similar price.
Should you wish to bet on the outright trophy winner market instead – which includes potential extra-time and penalties – then Barca are priced around 1/7 and Sevilla 5/1.
For goals bettors, the popular over 2.5 goals market is available at 4/9, with over 3 goal line generally priced at 7/10 and both teams to score set around 8/11.
It’s worth considering that Barcelona will play Athletic Bilbao in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup only three days after their tie with Sevilla, but then there’s little doubt that the Catalans will win the Spanish equivalent of England’s Community Shield over two legs so we shouldn’t worry too much about Enrique’s boys conserving energy.
Certainly, whilst they’re likely to lose, Sevilla will be – as they say in boxing – a ‘live underdog’ in Georgia and one that drew 2-2 with Barca when the two last met in April 2015.
That draw, however, was largely due to Barca ‘taking their foot off the gas’ when leading 2-0, and the other major factor is that Sevilla are extremely strong at their Ramon Sanchez stadium – which, as mentioned earlier, led to them being undefeated in Seville for nearly all of the 2014/15 season, until Real Madrid triumphed there.
Of course, neither Barcelona nor Sevilla have home advantage on Tuesday, and although the latter’s chances of winning are vastly reduced away from Seville, it’s better than playing at Camp Nou, where they lost 5-1 last season.
Indeed, although they’ve kept the score close in many of their recent head-to-head meetings with Barca, at any ground, Sevilla have actually lost five of the last six, but scored in each and every one of them.
As such, and considering that the Catalan side looked shaky in defence during their pre-season matches, scoring and conceding in five out of six games, the best bet looks like Barcelona to win and both teams to score when they meet Sevilla in Georgia.
Photo credits: Wikimedia (Creative Commons – Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0))
It won’t be another title procession. It can’t be. Can it?
The sensible play is to sit tight, watch from afar, and gauge over a period of weeks whether a fresh overseas import is more Van Nistelrooy than Van Wolfswinkel, but most of us can’t resist diving in. It’s got to be done. So which of the dozens of top-flight newcomers should we consider including in our Fantasy League short list this year?
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10 hours ago