Barcelona vs. Sevilla: What to Expect Tactically from Both Sides

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Barcelona vs. Sevilla: What to Expect Tactically from Both Sides
David Ramos/Getty Images
Sevilla bring a much-changed lineup to Barcelona this weekend.

Barcelona entertain Sevilla at Camp Nou on the back of three straight La Liga wins, whilst the visitors are yet to register three points in this campaign.

Sevilla arrive in Catalonia devoid of many of their former stars, sold during the summer to balance the books.

Gary Medel, Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo have all moved to the English Premier League, whilst Geoffrey Kondogbia has taken up residence in the Principality to engage with the project at AS Monaco.

Barca have yet to concede a goal at home, and it's not hard to see why this game, indeed this season, might be a long and arduous one for the Andalusians.

David Ramos/Getty Images
Sevilla will miss the combative nature of Gary Medel's performances.

Stephane Mbia has joined on loan from Queen's Park Rangers to provide some much-needed defensive midfield cover in the absence of the marauding Kondogbia, and Kevin Gameiro, a transfer window capture from Paris Saint Germain, has already proved his value to a new-look attack, scoring twice to salvage a draw against Malaga in the last match before the international break.

Although he is yet to feature for Sevilla, Denis Cheryshev, a loan capture from Real Madrid, comes highly rated.

They are certainly not the "big names" that Croatian international and new captain Ivan Rakitic will have been expecting.

Rakitic was extremely unhappy at the summer clear-out at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan and, per SkySports, made plain his feelings toward his employers at the time:

"I'm really flattered that I'm being linked with such a big club like Liverpool," Rakitic told 24sata.

"I heard that something is happening, but for now there is no concrete offer.

"My brother, who is taking care of my career, is doing all the business about my future.

"But I will repeat what I said before: I will only stay at Sevilla if they will strengthen the team.

"I made it quite clear about that and they know that they have to buy some good players."

Alongside Mbia, he should be looking to employ a combative presence in a central double pivot against the finesse of Xavi Hernandez or Cesc Fabregas.

Shutting down that supply line to Lionel Messi as quickly as possible is imperative for the visitors, and the capability of the Croatian to get in among it and beaver away at the coalface will dictate the early pattern of this game.

If Sevilla manager Unai Emery gets his selection right, then Barca's two wing backs will have their hands full trying to contain the likes of Gameiro/Marko Marin on the right side and the pacey Diego Perotti on the left.

Both Dani Alves and Jordi Alba will think twice before galloping forward, knowing they leave themselves exposed down the flanks on the counter.

In the Malaga match, Rakitic was employed on the right side of a three-man midfield in the 4-3-3 formation from Unai Emery, which mirrored Bernd Schuster's Malaga tactics exactly. Gameiro's two goals came from the wide right position, whereas previously he had played as the lone frontman against Levante.

A 4-2-3-1 formation like the one used in the Levante game is Sevilla's best hope of stifling Barca's attack. (Image courtesy of WhoScored.com)

Marin, a loan capture from Chelsea, adopted a slightly withdrawn striking role in a 4-2-3-1 formation for that match, with Vitolo and Perotti providing the necessary width on that occasion, and Sevilla are likely to get more joy from a replication of this against Barca.

Sergio Busquets will need to protect the back four with his usual aplomb and not allow Marin the opportunity to pick the lock with his brand of sharp, crisp passing. 

Emery has not been shy in rotating personnel or manipulating the formation of the team, depending on the opponent, but a 4-3-3 to mirror Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino's expected formation is unlikely and ill-advised.

Having never won at Camp Nou, it may well be that Emery won't be too gung-ho in this one and his selections will be based on this game being more of a damage-limitation exercise. 

However, in so doing, Emery runs the risk of inviting unnecessary pressure on his defence, even though a draw for the away side would still be a hugely positive result at this early stage of the season.

Neymar is playing himself into fine form and will aim to get in Coke's face from the outset. Lionel Messi should have no problem keeping Federico Fazio busy centrally, and Pedro's speed is likely to expose the ageing Fernando Navarro on the opposite side.

That pressure will only be reduced by the aforementioned industry and workmanlike performances of Mbia and Rakitic.

Sevilla are damned if they do (attack) and damned if they don't, and Unai Emery is unlikely to end his winless streak this weekend.

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