Barca face Sevilla in crucial La Liga tie
Posted on Feb 08 2014 | IANS
Madrid, Feb 8 : FC Barcelona face perhaps their most important game of the Spanish La Liga season when they travel to play Sevilla Sunday evening.
Failure to win in the Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium could see Barca drop down to third place in the league table and slip to six points off the lead, should Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid win their respective games Saturday, reports Xinhua.
Barca will travel in the midst of another crisis following their home defeat to Valencia last weekend and their unconvincing display at home to Real Sociedad in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final.
Those games have served to raise doubts once again over the more direct style of play imposed by coach Tata Martino and also the form of Lionel Messi.
Although he scored his first league goal in almost four months from the penalty spot last weekend, Messi has struggled to be at his best since returning after his thigh injury at the start of the year.
The Argentine does look to be returning to full fitness but the sharpness of touch and half a yard of pace are still missing. Barca showed before the New Year they can cope without him but with Andres Iniesta also below par and Neymar still out with an ankle injury the options for Martino are now more limited.
He will be forced into changes in Seville Sunday as central defender Javier Mascherano and left back Jordi Alba are both suspended. Alba will be replaced with former Sevilla utility player, Adriano, while Marc Bartra will replace Mascherano.
Sevilla have also stumbled in recent weeks, taking just two points from their last four matches after it looked as if Unai Emery's side were making a determined bid to battle for the top six spot.
Sevilla have a dangerous striker in Carlos Bacca and the Catalans will have to keep a close watch on the Colombian as well as in-demand midfield lynchpin Ivan Rakitic if they are to maintain control of the game.
Barca will kick off knowing their rivals' results and that could see the pressure raised to boiling point.