La Liga this term is witnessing significant upsets from the very beginning of the 2018-19 season, and the league tally is reflecting the same with Sevilla occupying the top of the table spot before the latest international break. Barcelona, the reigning champions, had a slow start but are eyeing to regain their supremacy on Saturday night defeating Sevilla at Camp Nou.
The visitors hold a poor record against the Catalans having won only once in the last 22 meetings and are winless in 15 games in the La Liga at Camp Nou ( L13 D2) conceding 40 goals in the process. Barcelona are unbeaten in their previous 40 outings at home in the league and should stretch it more maintaining their superiority over high-flying Los Hispalenses. They have already met once this season in 2018 Supercopa de España where Barca came back from behind to seal a 2-1 victory and they should be confident of claiming another win in familiar surroundings.
Blaugrana are currently undergoing a crisis at the back with Samuel Umtiti, and veteran Thomas Vermaelen ruled out for a while due to their respective knee and hamstring injuries. Sergi Roberto, however, is back in training recovering from a thigh strain and working hard to make himself available for the high-profile weekend tie.
Ernesto Valverde, the Barcelona gaffer, has rotated his options frequently but retained a 4-3-3 setup week in week out. He is expected to field them up in a similar pattern versus Sevilla but should demand more from his men who have primarily underperformed so far.
Barcelona have a couple of high-profile custodians in their senior squad. However, it is Marc-André ter Stegen who has been handed a ‘number 1’ role over Jasper Cillessen and the die Mannschaft international has been excellent so far between the sticks since joining from Borussia Monchengladbach four years back.
It’s unclear whether versatile Sergi Roberto would be back to full fitness before Saturday. Right-back Nelson Semedo, therefore, is expected to retain his place whereas Gerard Pique will partner young Frenchman Clément Lenglet in deep defence who is set to feature against his former club for the second time since completing a €35m summer switch. Jordi Alba would feature down the left of Barcelona’s ‘back four’ which looks nervy and vulnerable of late.
Valverde has rotated his midfield-three time and again but should bank on experienced individuals to have control over the game. Sergio Busquets should operate from his usual deep-lying slot whereas Ivan Rakitic, the Croatian midfield general, must be handed a box-to-box role against his ex-employers. Arthur, the 22-year-old Selecao international, has made an instant impact following his summer move from Gremio and should start in midfield alongside these two renowned resources.
Philippe Coutinho, the winter recruit from Liverpool should be allowed to operate from the left and the Brazilian, known for his shooting traits and vision, must exhibit his attributes in such a crucial encounter. Legendary Lionel Messi, as always, is the main man upfront alongside Luis Suarez who is not only netting goals but also creating chances and helping his teammates to convert those.
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