Sevilla must not allow Lionel Messi’s superb record against them to distort their broader focus on Barcelona, Pablo Machin has warned.
The Blaugrana’s superstar captain boasts a personal best 33 goals in all competitions against Sevilla, who head into Saturday’s crunch home fixture without a win in three LaLiga matches.
Sevilla beat Barca 2-0 in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarter-final tie last month, only to crumble to a 6-1 defeat at Camp Nou on Messi’s return to the starting XI.
The 31-year-old Argentina great has netted 22 times in as many LaLiga appearances this term and shapes as the key figure in a match billed as pivotal in the champions’ bid to defend their title.
“He is the best in the world and we have to realise that,” Sevilla head coach Machin said.
“That’s obvious, but their team is very strong as well. Barcelona scored five against Real Madrid [in October] without Messi.
“He is important but the collective is even more so.”
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) February 22, 2019
Sevilla’s impressive early season form has ebbed away in 2019 and left the Andalusian club 17 points adrift of top spot.
They successfully ousted Lazio from the Europa League’s last 16 with a 3-0 aggregate victory, but Jesus Navas picked up a muscle problem in the late stages of Wednesday’s second leg.
The 33-year-old is now in a race against time to be fit for Barca’s visit despite being included in Machin’s 18-man squad.
“Other than the injured players we already had, Navas is the biggest doubt,” he added.
“We have to see how he progresses. These 24 hours are important to see how the player is, what sensations he has and from there make a decision.”
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