The La Liga title chase is setting up to become a true thriller down the stretch. Barcelona are currently in a tied with rival Real Madrid and three points behind leaders Atletico Madrid. A road fixture against Sevilla presents a tricky test as they look to keep pace.
Barca bounced back from a league loss to Valencia with a 2-0 win over Real Sociedad in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semifinal. It was hardly a dominating performance from Gerardo Martino's group, but the Blaugrana were able to get back on track.
They face off with a Sevilla side that sits in seventh place thanks to a formidable attack. Yet, with a lackluster defense and mediocre home form during the current campaign, the Sevillistas are a team Barcelona should beat if they play up to their potential.
Knowing that, let's check out all of the important viewing information for the La Liga clash. It's followed by a breakdown to the top storyline and a match prediction.
Where: Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan in Seville, Spain
When: Sunday, Feb. 9 at 3 p.m. ET (8 p.m. GMT)
Watch: beIN Sports and Sky Sports 1
Live Stream: beIN Sports Pla
Match Forecast (via Bloomberg Sports)
Barcelona: 53.9 percent
Sevilla: 25.5 percent
Draw: 20.6 percent
Top Storyline: Can Barcelona score a key road win amid a busy schedule?
If Barca are going to stand atop the La Liga table when the dust settles at season's end, road matches against clubs like Sevilla are key. They must find a way to beat those mid-table foes or risk losing ground in the race with the top Madrid sides.
What makes things even more complicated is the Blaugrana's loaded slate. Since they are still competing in the Champions League and the Copa del Rey, there are very few chances for the club to catch its collective breath and hit the reset button when necessary.
The result has been a Barcelona squad that hasn't been as efficient as normal. The club's official site passed along comments from Martino after the Sociedad match, and the manager admitted there was a lack of usual dominance:
In the match against Valencia, in the first half, we played well but we didn't finish off well. Today we didn't dominate to the point that would allow us to think we could have killed off the tie.
Normally in times like this, Barca would look to Lionel Messi to re-energize the squad. But even the dynamic Argentine forward is going through a bit of a lull. He's scored just once over his past five appearances, which was a penalty shot.
From Sevilla's perspective, they must capitalize on Barca's recent play. That means setting up a strong defensive line early in an attempt to further frustrate the normally explosive Barcelona attack, and then creating their own chances on the country.
The best thing the Blaugrana can do it get back to the basics. Quick passes, plenty of movement and a lot of touches in the final third for Messi remain the keys to success. If they can get back to completely controlling pace and possession, things should fall their way.
It will be very interesting to see how this match plays out. Barcelona is starting to feel some added pressure with the close title race and a couple subpar showings by their standards. In the past, these are the moments where they would elevate their form.
These two sides played an entertaining match back in September. Sevilla scored two late goals to equalize before Alexis Sanchez connected in extra time to earn all three points for Barca. Don't expect as many fireworks this time around, but the result should be the same.
Barcelona 2, Sevilla 1
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