FC Barcelona needed to give a standout performance if they wanted to climb to the top of the standings in La Liga against Sevilla this Saturday. And that is exactly what they did.
Despite the fact Lionel Messi left the pitch with an injury during the first half, Barcelona didn’t rattle and secured a huge win. First-half strikes from Messi and Philippe Coutinho paved the way, and goals from both Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic after the break sealed the three points for the Camp Nou outfit. Pablo Sarabia and Luis Muriel netted late in the second half for Sevilla, but it wasn’t enough. Barca secured a solid 4-2 win, and now they sit all alone at the top of the standings with 18 points.
Here are three things we learned following Saturday’s action:
There is no doubt the absence of Messi will be a problem
There is no question that Messi left his mark in this game since he got involved directly in the first two goals. He only needed two minutes to assist Coutinho with an excellent through ball, and the Brazilian coolly placed the ball into the top corner and out of the keeper’s reach. As if that wasn’t enough, the Argentinian superstar doubled the lead in the 12th minute with one of his trademark goals: he charged the defence, cut inside, and placed the ball into the far post.
Unfortunately, he left the game in the 26th minute. The diagnosis was clear: Messi suffered an arm fracture, and will be out between three to four weeks, meaning he will miss the Champions League clash against Inter Milan and El Clasico against Real Madrid next week. Messi’s earliest return date could be after the November international break, and even that would be to push it a little. Considering he has 12 goals in 11 matches across all competitions, there is no question his absence will represent a huge blow to Barca’s chances.
However, Barca have enough pieces to replace him
Fortunately for Ernesto Valverde, Los Blaugranas have enough piece to replace – or better yet, mask – his absence from the starting lineup. Ousmane Dembele has taken a step forward in his game, and could represent a viable alternative on the attacking end. Or maybe Coutinho can play in a more attacking role, creating a starting slot in midfield for either Ivan Rakitic or Arturo Vidal. Names like Malcom and Munir could also become alternatives down the road, especially when rotation becomes a must.
None of these players will come even close to match Messi’s impact. But Barca have enough options to replace their star player. That’s something not many teams in the world can say at the moment.
Sevilla still have one more step to climb
Sevilla are a tough team to analyse. At times they look as if they’re ready to take a leap and compete toe-to-toe with Atletico Madrid, Barcelona or Real Madrid. But on other moments, they simply look as if they are “the best of the rest”. The latter was in full display today, as Los Nervionenses had to be down 3-0 midway into the second half to show any kind of reaction.
Sure, the goals from Sarabia and Muriel prove Barca still have defensive issues to solve. But Sevilla can’t play like this if they are going to have a realistic Top 4 aspiration. Today’s game was the best proof that this team still need to work on both sides of the ball if they want to become a legit title threat. Right now, they must climb a few more steps to be in the same level as the other three Spanish giants.
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