Barcelona begin their quest to regain the Champions League next week with the visit of Ajax, but manager Gerardo Martino is keen to remain focused on La Liga and a match against Sevilla on Saturday. Martino will have been relieved to have his squad return unscathed from the international break but he has stressed that Sevilla should not be taken lightly.
“We are excited about the Champions League, but we also have to be careful about every single league match” he said,” according to Barcelona’s official website. “You have to be careful about everything in all 38 games to make sure you don’t allow any advantages, and the international games are no excuse for not performing to our best against Sevilla.”
Lionel Messi and Neymar have had little recovery time since their long trips and Martino said that he will assess their fitness on the day of the match to decide how much a part that they can play. Sergio Busquets has returned to full training after recovering from a thigh injury. There has been a boost this week with Carles Puyol returning to train with his teammates for the first time on Friday after undergoing knee surgery in March. While the 35-year-old won’t be available on Saturday, Martino is excited about his imminent return.
“It means we’ll have the third center-back that so many people are talking about, and it also means the team will get its captain back,” he explained. “He was happy to have been able to train with the team for the first time.”
Barcelona have begun the season with three-straight wins, although they suffered a scare last time out when Valencia came back from 3-0 down to make it 3-2. In contrast, Sevilla had to twice come from behind in their last match to secure a 2-2 draw at home to Malaga. That was one of only two points that Unai Emery’s side have picked up in a struggling start to the season.
There is perhaps little surprise in Sevilla’s difficulties, given the amount of talent that left the club over the summer. Spain internationals Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas have left for Manchester City, while midfielders Gary Medel and Geoffrey Kondogbia have also moved on for hefty fees. One of the players brought in, Marko Marin is fit to travel to the Camp Nou, as is goalkeeper Beto after both recovered from injuries.Diego Perotti misses out.
D: Daniel Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba
M: Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta
F: Sanchez, Messi, Neymar
D: Coke, Cala, Navarro, Moreno
M: Mbia, Rakitic
Vitolo, Marin, Jairo
Prediction: It is likely to take Sevilla a while to gel following their massive summer overhaul of players. Barcelona are also still finding their feet under Martino, but have still produced some exhilarating play in patches. At the Camp Nou, Barcelona should secure a comfortable victory.
Barcelona 3-1 Sevilla
Where to watch: The Primera Division match will kick-off at 2.p.m. ET on Saturday. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport, with a live stream available on beIN Sport Play.