Since the turn of the calendar year, one team has struggled, while the other has stayed in the title race.
Sevilla were on 36 points through 17 matches by the time 2017 rolled around, in second place, one point above Barcelona who were in third. Now, Sevilla are in fourth place, on 58 points through 30 games, EIGHT points below the Catalans, who are in second on 66 points.
— LaLiga (@LaLigaEN) April 4, 2017
Barcelona come into this one as most would expect, winning and winning in style. They’ve scored four goals in back to back games and an astonishing TWENTY in their last five league games. Luis Suarez grabbed a “double-double” – two goals and two assists in a 4-1 demolition job of Granada on Sunday. They also welcome back Lionel Messi for this one, who scored and assisted Suarez the winning goal the last time the two sides met back in November at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. It also gave Sevilla their first loss of the season at the time.
Sevilla 1-2 Barcelona FT:
Pass accuracy: 81%-86%
Chances created: 13-13
Frenetic contest. pic.twitter.com/HzRLwHrzFP
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 6, 2016
Sevilla come into this one having won just twice in their last six league games, including draws in three of the last four. As a result, they’re just three points behind Atletico Madrid for third place. The bigger issue, however, is their lack of goalscoring. Jorge Sampaoli’s men have scored six goals during the aforementioned six game streak. If they don’t fix the issue against Luis Enrique’s men, it could get ugly, fast.
Matchup to Watch: Lionel Messi vs Sevilla’s Defense
It sounds simple, but it’s true, if Messi plays to his level, Sevilla have no chance. He was the difference the last time the pair met, and is fresh coming back from suspension. Sampaoli has even come out and stated his fandom for the Argentine. Sevilla will have to be nearly perfect if they are to gain anything from this match. Barcelona have won their last seven league games, and a win against their opponents will put them top of the table until Real Madrid’s match against Leganes later that day.
Prediction: Barcelona 3-1 Sevilla
This game could be viewed as a job interview for Sampaoli, as he’s been heavily linked with the Barcelona job, ever since Luis Enrique announced he’d step down after the end of the season. If his audition is a success, Barcelona will definitely take a closer look at him, while Sevilla keep their Champions League hopes alive. If it’s a failure, he can forget about managing Messi and company at the Camp Nou, and realize his team are on a serious downward tailspin.