FC Barcelona saw off stiff competition Sunday night as they traveled to take on Sevilla in the pouring rain in what ended as a 4-1 thriller. The Catalans conceded an early goal but fought back to win by a comfortable margin.
But don't let the scoreline lead you astray; it was a very tough night for La Blaugrana. Sevilla attacked in numbers, and had it not been for poor finishing, this game could have gone a completely different way.
The game at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan had a lot of lessons for both sides. So in this article we will take a look at six things we can take away from the match and discuss what they mean for both sides.
All statistics are courtesy of WhoScored.com.
Sevilla boast immense quality throughout their entire squad. The defense has been solid for the most part this season, and the midfield and forwards continue to cause problems for every opponent.
Yet, it is the left side of the attack that is producing the most exciting play as of late.
Left-back Alberto Moreno and midfielder Vitolo have not just been performing well, they have become a dynamic duo. Their connection is easily seen on the pitch, and it is certainly paying dividends such as Sevilla’s opening goal, which saw Vitolo assist Moreno.
Every team must have players that link up together well. That is exactly what Sevilla have right now, and they need to take more advantage of it.
Throughout the entirety of the first half, nearly every attack came down the left flank. Sevilla had a lot to show for it, and Barcelona barely had an answer for their hosts. But as the game progressed, they began to use the left flank less, which was a mistake.
Barcelona's problems are not going away. It has been over two years now, and the fact that the club is still suffering from the same things is getting a bit ridiculous.
From the very beginning of the game, it was clear that the defense was going to struggle again. Gerard Pique struggled to keep positioning in the soaking rain, and Marc Bartra had too much on his shoulders to cover.
At the same time, Martin Montoya and Adriano struggled as well. If not for their speed, the club would have given up even more chances. But the biggest issue for the defense was the lack of contribution from Alex Song. The Cameroon international again stepped in for Sergio Busquets and was again a major disappointment.
Further up the pitch, other familiar problems showed their faces.
For large stretches of the match, the Barcelona midfield was stagnant and failed to penetrate the Sevilla defense. The club again turned to Messi to be the difference-maker, and luckily, he came through. Had Messi not worked his magic, the result could have been drastically different.
With the defense still struggling and dependence on Messi creeping back into the side, Barcelona have some issues to address. Tougher matches are on the horizon, and it is time to fix things now.
Losing Alvaro Negredo during the summer was always going to be a difficult thing for Sevilla to overcome. However, it is hard to deny that they are starting to look extremely dangerous going forward.
The likes of Carlos Bacca and Kevin Gameiro have already combined to score 15 goals this season, and they are still improving. With the two forwards linking up well, Sevilla has grown to be highly consistent up front.
But Sevilla have just as much quality behind the strikers.
Vicente Iborra and Vitolo know how to hold up play and distribute the ball, which has helped Sevilla keep possession when needed. However, the real talent lies in midfielder Ivan Rakitic.
The Croatian is the heart and soul of Sevilla and has been one of the best players in Spain this season. Rakitic knows how to create chances and is also known for being able to put a long shot past the keeper.
To put it simply, Sevilla have a lot of talent going forward. The players are growing even more comfortable with each other, and they showed just how dangerous they could be against Barcelona.
At the beginning of the season, everyone was praising Tata Martino's rotational policy. Fast forward to today, and that same policy has started to cause some real problems for the Catalan club.
Even before the game started there were a few question marks over Martino's lineup. Alex Song was starting in place of Sergio Busquets, while both Martin Montoya and Adriano featured in the starting lineup as well.
With all of the problems the Barcelona defense has had recently, starting all three of the players made little sense.
To begin with, Sergio Busquets needed to be on the pitch. Ivan Rakitic and the Sevilla attack can be very deadly, and the Catalans needed the likes of Busquets to hold down the midfield.
At the same time, Montoya and Adriano are both backups, meaning that Martino really started the match with only two first-choice starters in the back line. Barcelona certainly paid for it.
We have to understand that players need rest, and there has to be rotations. But playing in the pouring rain in a match of this magnitude, you simply have got to put your best lineup on the field.
If we had to sum up Sevilla's night, it would be getting as close as possible to scoring without actually finding the back of the net. Poor finishing will always cost you.
To be completely honest, Sevilla should have gotten something from this match; they could have even won. But despite all of their incredible attacking runs, the home side just could not score more than one goal.
Carlos Bacca struck the post. Players put shots wide when they only had the keeper to beat. And of course, Victor Valdes made a few unbelievable stops. It was simply an unlucky night for Los Rojiblancos.
Sevilla managed to get off 14 shots, but only four were put on target.
You could see the irritation on the faces of the fans at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. No matter what the players did, the ball just would not go in. Poor finishing can often be what decides a match, and on Sunday night, it absolutely cost Sevilla valuable points.
Regardless of Barcelona's problems against Sevilla, they still found a way to win big and take all three points. It is OK to win ugly sometimes, and this victory shows that the Catalans know how to grind out results.
There will be celebrations following the match, but rest assured that Martino will have a lot of things to talk about in the next training session.
The Catalans once again sit at the pinnacle of the La Liga table with just goal difference separated them from the giants of Madrid. If we didn't have a title race in La Liga before, we sure do have one now.
Sometimes a win is just a win, and the most important thing is always the result. But with Champions League play set to start back up very soon, Barcelona will definitely need to shake off some of these problems, or it could be a long month.
Should Barcelona be worried about the weaknesses they showed on Sunday? Can the Catalans go on to win the La Liga title? Leave your thoughts and comments below!