FC Barcelona’s match against Sevilla FC was a clear testament that the team still struggles in the build-up against a team that presses aggressively with a structure. This is because of the lack of ‘La Pausa’. “La Pausa” is essentially the know-how of when to keep the ball and when to release it. The principle focuses on drawing the opposite players out of their line to leave spaces. The player with the ball then passes into the space that one of the teammates controls. Nevertheless, Barcelona proved they have that essential edge with efficient players in front of the goal. Barcelona won it easy with a 3-0 score line.
FC Barcelona’s First Half
Xavi lined up with the usual starting eleven. A 4-3-3, Kounde started on the right-back position. Balde started the nod over Alba. Both Alba and Pique started on the bench. Much of the offensive display that Xavi desires came after the 20th minute. Up until the 20th minute, both the teams were involved in a chaotic clash, with Sevilla dominating. In the 20th minute, Gavi won a ball back from Lamela. Busquets made the right call as he passed it to Dembele, who found himself with an open ground to run into. Lewandowski’s chip shot was saved at the goal line by Fernando. Raphinha then headed the ball into an empty net. Raphinha deserved his first goal in the league after his consistently good performances.
After the first goal, the game changed its trajectory. With the lead, Barcelona was calmer on the ball. Sevilla dropped the aggressive pressing and began structuring into their lines. Down the right flank, Raphinha was occasionally dropping into the central zones. The width was, therefore, provided by Kounde. Gavi had to drop deep to protect the space which was left because of Kounde’s progression.
Gavi had an eye-catching performance throughout the match. He was everywhere, running circles, winning his duels, winning the loose balls, helping in the ball retention, moving into the space in the right-half area.
The second goal came courtesy of two brilliant individual moments. Lewandowski acknowledges the distance between both the Sevilla centre-backs. He moves into the room and positions his body without stepping into the offside zone. As the ball moved from the left flank into the feet of Kounde. The distance between the centre-backs opens up. Kounde sees Lewa’s position and the space and makes a pin-point pass into his way. Lewa knows the space between the defenders behind him and the Sevilla goalkeeper. He receives the ball with a delicate touch and places it in the bottom corner out of Bono’s reach. Lewandowski’s movements make him the deadly striker, along with his killer finishing.
Much of the performance of Barcelona up until the 20th minute was because of Sevilla’s approach to the match. Lopetegui approached the game, aware of the high defensive backline Barcelona maintained throughout the game. The Sevilla frontline made runs behind the backline as soon as one of the Sevilla players had the ball. To have the ball, Sevilla pressed hard in the Barcelona half. Man-marking, the Barcelona players, resulted in the blocking of all the passing lanes. Ter Stegen attempted long balls to get out of the press for the very reason. The Barcelona players’ incapability to break the pressing structure also helped Sevilla. The runs-in-behind, made by the Sevilla forwards, were met with an offside flag due to Barcelona maintaining a proper backline. In one instance where El Nesyri made the right run, the assistant referee made a wrong call.
Into the second half
Barcelona was now more comfortable in the game. Sevilla had dropped its aggressive press and observed a mixture of mid and low blocks. One of the reasons for this new approach was because of the aggressive pressing in the first half. Even with the press, Fc Barcelona managed to score two goals. Lopetegui preferred to have bodies behind the ball.
The second goal came from a great cross from Raphinha. The cross was met by Koudne, who laid it back into the path of Eric Garcia. Eric slotted the ball into the net. The goal was Eric’s first goal in a Barcelona shirt, and he deserved it, considering his great performances since starting the league.
Barcelona was now more comfortable with the ball. The usual patient build-up returned. Pedri was influential in the second half. He knew how to make use of the ball. In instances when he switched the play to the right side, Raphinha handled it well. Raphinha had a good game throughout the game. He frequently ran down the right side, making great use of the width. He was influential in both goals.
The Barcelona defenders were adamant in their defending. Yet, Ter Stegen’s performances once again caught the eye. One can only wonder what the game’s result could have been if the German goalkeeper had failed to get his hand to block Rakitic’s shot.
In the end, Barcelona again left the pitch with a comfortable win. However, Xavi would be conscious of the result and the hardships faced by the team in the first quarter of the match.