In a final tune-up before the start of the new La Liga season, Barcelona will face Sevilla over two legs of the Spanish Super Cup, kicking off this Sunday at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. If this match up sounds familiar it’s because the two teams met earlier this summer in the Copa del Rey final.
Barça came out 2-0 winners in that one and are heavy favorites heading into this month’s cup. Especially since Sevilla have already lost one cup this week, the UEFA Super Cup, which they lost 3-2 to Real Madrid.
However, last year at this time Sevilla pushed Barça to the limit in the Super Cup, narrowly coming out 5-4 winners. Sevilla were under the direction of Unai Emery then but Sunday will be the first time the club has faced Barça under new manager Jorge Sampaoli.
The Chilean manager’s team looked pretty good against Real Madrid and with goals from Franco Vazquez and Yevhen Konoplyanka it looked like they were on their way to a 2-1 lead. However, Real maintained their knack for coming from behind in big cup finals, pipping one in injury time to force the game to extra, allowing Daniel Carvajal to net a late winner.
Barça faired better in their final game leading up to the cup – beating Sampdoria 3-2 in the Joan Gamper Cup the Catalans host every year. One goal from Luis Suarez and two from Lionel Messi were enough to see Barça past the Italian side.
Unlike Real Madrid, who were without Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo, Barcelona will have their entire first-choice squad available for Sunday’s clash. With all due respect to Sevilla, a respectable La Liga side, it should be pretty straightforward for Barça.
Sevilla’s best hope may lay in trying to hold Barça scoreless and sneak a goal on the counter so they can take a narrow lead into the second leg at the Camp Nou. But it’s a risky strategy as trying to set back and absorb pressure from a team with the most formidable attack in Europe can easily backfire.
To make a case for Sevilla you could argue that having played the likes of Real Madrid in meaningful competition might have them more match ready than a Barça side that recently lost a friendly to Liverpool and didn’t look as domineering as you might expect against a side that finished 15th in Serie A last season.
Also, under Unai Emery, this Sevilla team had a way of surprising teams. Under Sampaoli they look to aspire to play more possession-based football, something that’s not likely to be easy against the best possession-based team of the modern era. It may not be easy, it may not be routine, but Barcelona should be able to find a way to win this.
Catch Barcelona vs. Sevilla in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup at 12:55pm ET Sunday on ESPN.