Daunt­ing Sevilla trip awaits de­feated Barca

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

MADRID:

Barcelona face a huge task to bounce back from de­feat at the hands of old boss Pep Guardi­ola’s Manch­ester City in mid­week when the Span­ish cham­pi­ons travel to high-fly­ing Sevilla to­day. Barca trail La Liga lead­ers Real Madrid by two points with Sevilla, who have won their last seven home games, just a point fur­ther adrift. “We are com­ing into the game well,” said Sevilla coach Jorge Sam­paoli af­ter his side moved to the brink of qual­i­fy­ing for the Cham­pi­ons League last 16 with a 4-0 thrash­ing of Di­namo Za­greb.

“I don’t think los­ing will af­fect Barcelona. If we don’t have a per­fect evening it will be a very dif­fi­cult en­counter.”

On top of their Cham­pi­ons League de­feat in Manch­ester, Barca have sneaked past Va­len­cia and Granada in their last two league out­ings as the ab­sence of Ger­ard Pique, Jordi Alba and An­dres Ini­esta has taken its toll. All three are ex­pected to miss out once more at the Sanchez Pizjuan with Rafinha or Arda Tu­ran re­plac­ing An­dre Gomes the only change ex­pected from the team that started at the Eti­had Sta­dium.

“Af­ter the first half, es­pe­cially af­ter los­ing the sec­ond goal, we lost the at­ti­tude we nor­mally have,” Barca goal­keeper Marc-An­dre ter Ste­gen told ra­dio sta­tion RAC1 on what Luis En­rique’s men need to im­prove for their trip to Seville.

Barca were the last vis­it­ing side to win at the Sanchez Pizjuan. How­ever, a 2-0 win in the first leg of the Span­ish Su­per Cup in Au­gust came before Sevilla had bed­ded in many of their 11 sum­mer sign­ings. Sevilla have in­jury problems of their own, though, with Samir Nasri a ma­jor doubt due to a ham­string prob­lem that forced him to miss the mid­week win.

MO­DRIC BACK

Barca could be five points adrift of Real by the time they kick off as the Euro­pean cham­pi­ons host Le­ganes to­day.

Madrid en­dured an em­bar­rass­ing night in front of an empty sta­dium on Wed­nes­day as they spurned a two-goal lead to draw 3-3 away at Le­gia Warsaw. The match was played be­hind closed doors due to vi­o­lence and racist chant­ing from Le­gia fans.

Yet, only Ma­teo Ko­vacic’s equaliser five min­utes from time al­lowed Madrid to ex­tend their un­beaten run to 27 games, and coach Zine­dine Zidane once again crit­i­cised his side’s lack of in­ten­sity.

“We lacked in­ten­sity, de­sire and move­ment,” said the French­man. “At times you can have these odd games and we’ve got to be pa­tient. The good thing is that we didn’t lose and we’re now fo­cus­ing on our next game.” Madrid could be boosted by the re­turn of Luka Mo­dric for the first time in a month af­ter he un­der­went surgery on a knee car­ti­lage prob­lem. Marcelo and James Ro­driguez should also be fit af­ter miss­ing the trip to Warsaw, but Ser­gio Ramos, Casemiro and Pepe re­main side­lined. It is the first time Le­ganes have ever faced Real in league action. Af­ter a bright start to their de­but La Liga cam­paign, three con­sec­u­tive de­feats have seen Le­ganes, nick­named the ‘cu­cum­ber grow­ers’, slip to a point above the rel­e­ga­tion zone.

Atletico Madrid are three points back on Real in third, but can move top when they travel to Real So­ciedad to­day.

Diego Sime­one’s men were the only Span­ish side to book their place in the last 16 of the Cham­pi­ons League in mid­week, but needed a dra­matic 93rd­minute An­toine Griez­mann win­ner to see off FC Ros­tov 2-1. Cen­tre-back Ste­fan Savic is sus­pended with Lu­cas Her­nan­dez or the fit-against Jose Maria Gimenez set to deputise.

Kevin Gameiro should also re­place Fernando Tor­res in at­tack. Real Betis coach Gus­tavo Poyet’s job is on the line when his side visit fifth-placed Vil­lar­real to­mor­row. Betis are just two points off the rel­e­ga­tion zone in 13th and fans called for Poyet’s head dur­ing last week­end’s 1-0 de­feat at home to Es­panyol. — AFP

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