Three lessons learned from Sevilla 2-0 Barcelona

A dreary 2-0 drubbing at the hands of Sevilla led to Barcelona’s fairytale away record finally coming to an abrupt end as they were left emptyhanded in the first leg of the Copa del Rey Semi Finals, played at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. Lack of energy and minimal creativity in ideas highlighted that the Catalans a lot yet to be achieve if they desire to restore the glory days.

With the colossal clash against PSG approaching, Barcelona have received a brutal wake-up call, which one can argue came in the most timely of moments. However, given the second leg will be played at the Camp Nou and there is a month left for Ronald Koeman to tweak his side and improve from his flaws, there is still a glimmer of hope left for the Azulgranas, who must ensure they do not miss out on a crucial source of silverware.

1. Defensive frailties continue to cost Barcelona

The Catalans’ ability to dominate possession for certain portions of the game and push Sevilla on the back-foot in the second half indicated that there was not much separating the two teams, particularly on instances where the Blaugranas prevented Sevilla from progressing the ball up-field vertically.

The encounter looked evenly matched when played in the center of the park, however, it was solely the incompetence of one department that led to Barça enduring a 2-0 defeat, which not for the first time turned out to be the defense. Despite little difference between the two teams’ reputation in possession, Sevilla’s back-line was far more structured as they played out from the back comfortably, something Barcelona failed to adeptly do.

Umtiti was on the end of a horror show against Sevilla. (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images)

Additionally, capitalizing on Umtiti’s error and the mix-up in defence allowed Kounde to burst forward and hand his side a crucial 1-0 lead in the 25th minute. Ever since that goal, the Los Nervionenses showed little intention of coming out of their half to attack and assert their dominance, which resulted in them launching a cunning counter-attack in the dying embers of the game Umtiti’s slip once again paved way for the hosts to pounce on an open goal-scoring opportunity as Rakitic – of all players – extended the Andalusian side’s lead.

Without the commanding presence of Ronald Araújo and the influential attendance of Gerard Piqué, Barcelona are oftentimes victim of lapses of concentration and cheap errors. With the team also failing to defend as a unit out of possession and the press looking awfully desynchronized on occasions, there is much left to be achieved collectively. Albeit there was more fight and hunger showcased after proceedings, it came to no fruition.

2. Ronald Koeman’s questionable usage of substitutions

While was no surprise seeing Barcelona look like a team devoid of imagination and spark after the hour mark, particularly given how burdensome the club’s recent schedule has been and the countless games that have been stretched to extra time, what was certainly surprising and a bolt from the blue was the fact that Ronald Koeman refrained from making his substitutions earlier in the game.

Riqui Puig and Fransisco Trincão had bright exhibitions against Real Betis and would have undeniably proven to be a breath of fresh air in a match where ideas looked stale and build-ups stagnant. Evidently, fatigue was catching up to the likes of Pedri and De Jong, who have hardly earned the privilege of sitting matches out.

If brought on earlier, Trincao could have made a difference. (Photo by CRISTINA QUICLER/AFP via Getty Images)

It was pitying to see Koeman refer to Fransisco Trincão only after Sevilla had extended their lead to 2-0, since by that time it was too little too late; attempting to impact the game while the opposition were cozy sitting in their defensive third was always going to be a tough ask. Bringing on merely 2 players in the 85th and 90th minute respectively was undoubtedly a blunder on the Dutch coach’s part, who should have realized his side looked immensely lethargic competing against one of the most physically draining teams in Spain.

3. Injury-plagued Barcelona is suffering from it’s depleted squad

The pandemic has unquestionably taken a huge toll on Barcelona. The loss of fans and financial crisis proceeds to trouble the club’s foundations. However, in addition to the hierarchy suffering the consequences of football’s new norm, the players are also now frequently falling prey to injuries as the demanding schedule imposed upon clubs has led to several key players of Barcelona forced to sit out on the sidelines, with Ronald Araujo being the recent addition.

Ronald Koeman was forced to take a couple of gambles against Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, with Sergiño Dest still not fit enough to feature in the starting XI and Ronald Araújo just recently undergoing an ankle sprain. The absence of Barcelona’s cornerstones in defense led to the Dutchman making some unconventional choices as Junior Firpo – traditionally a left-back – and Samuel Umtiti – an irregular starter at the club – found themselves a spot in the line-up.

Dest is being missed sorely. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Woefully, their errors at the back led to the defense cheaply succumbing against Sevilla’s tireless forwards. Loss of stability at the back and fielding unfamiliar faces hampered the team considerably. Furthermore, the loss of Ansu Fati, albeit he has been absent for months now, proved to be as noticeable as ever. The teenage sensation would have been ideal on the left flank, who could have effectively utilized the hosts’ only major weak link in Aleix Vidal. With Jordi Alba tasked to provide all the width and Griezmann frequently drifting inwards, there was a large void left to be filled.

While Martin Braithwaite and Miralem Pjanic were unlikely to have started the match, they could have been crucial coming off the bench, providing the sense of unpredictability in the side or adding dynamism, elements scarcely seen in Barça’s performance on the night. The duo were simply left out of the squad due to not being at a 100{3851c0879557ceb6c70cddb6630c7df9a9750acfd53fffec21979e603af26faa} as Koeman’s options continued to dwindle.

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