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Julen Lopetegui’s side are struggling and they will find it tough to keep out Barcelona’s exciting attack.
Back Barcelona to beat Sevilla in both halves (+150) at Caesars sportsbook
Pick made on 08/31/2022 at 06:13 PM EST
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After opening the season with a disappointing 0-0 home draw against Rayo Vallecano, Barcelona are beginning to click into gear. Their 4-1 victory over Real Sociedad on matchday two was not as straightforward as the scoreline suggests, with Barcelona only really taking the game away from their opponents in the fourth quarter of the match. That performance did showcase their tremendous attacking firepower, though – and that collective quality was also on display in the 4-0 thrashing of Real Valladolid last time out.
Home games against promoted teams will not define Barcelona’s season, but Xavi Hernandez took plenty of positives away from his side’s display on matchday three. The Blaugrana played with fluidity and coherence against Valladolid. Robert Lewandowski notched a brace, with the Poland international having required next to no time to adapt to Spanish soccer. Some of Barcelona’s play was stunning, especially in the opening 45 minutes.
There will be bumps in the road in what promises to be a fascinating race to be crowned La Liga title winner in 2022/23. Real Madrid will not give up their crown without a fight, and they have the added benefit of continuity and stability compared to the significant changes that Barcelona’s squad has undergone over the summer.
But Xavi looks to have done a good job of gelling this new-look team together. Sevilla, despite their poor recent form, will pose a sterner test than Valledolid managed last weekend, but Barcelona would probably back themselves to beat anyone in La Liga right now.
There is always a debate to be had about whether ending a season badly risks a poor start to the next campaign. There is no cut-and-dried answer. Some teams are able to get that feeling of disappointment out of their systems over the summer month – consider Arsenal, the current Premier League leaders who failed to finish in the top four last season. Other sides see a continuation of their downturn from the previous year. Sevilla, alas, appear to fit into the latter category.
At one point last term, Julen Lopetegui’s side were Real Madrid’s closest challengers at the summit of the Spanish standings. After a 1-0 victory over Getafe in January, Sevilla moved to within five points of table-topping Madrid, on whom they had a game in hand. Champions League qualification seemed a certainty at that stage: Sevilla had an 11-point lead on fifth-placed Real Sociedad, while their mean defense had given up a league-low 13 goals in 20 matches.
But that proved to be the apex of Sevilla’s season. They remained second until the beginning of April, but a string of draws saw them fall further and further behind Real Madrid. By the end of the campaign they sat fourth, scraping into the Champions League by a five-point margin.
Sevilla have taken just one point from the first seven on offer in 2022/23, leaving Lopetegui under pressure. Perhaps the Spaniard is a victim of his own success – the club’s fans would have gladly accepted a fourth-place finish at the start of last season – but he now needs to focus on turning the situation around.
Lopetegui was publicly critical of his player’s mental strength after a 2-1 defeat by Almeria last time out, a risky move which seldom ends well for managers. And with Sevilla’s squad already low on confidence, this is perhaps the worst possible fixture for the team: Barcelona are full of positivity after handsome back-to-back wins.
These two teams have registered the highest average possession figures so far this term. But while Sevilla have had plenty of the ball in meetings with Osasuna, Real Valladolid and Almeria, they have had too few ideas with what to do with it. Barcelona have been much more incisive in attack in their last couple of outings, while their four goals against Valladolid last time out split evenly between the two halves.
There is reason to believe Xavi’s side will score either side of half-time again at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan. The home crowd may voice their general displeasure if Sevilla concede the opening goal early on, increasing the incentive for Barcelona to start quickly.
With Lewandowski having hit the ground running in La Liga, and the likes of Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele on hand to provide support, we recommend backing Barcelona to win both halves this weekend.
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|Teams||Sevilla vs Barcelona|
|Location||Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan, Seville, Spain|
|Time||Saturday, 3 September 2022, 03:00 PM EST|
|How to watch||ESPN+|
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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