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A cup final dress rehearsal with the title race at stake

As the Copa Del Rey finalists face off in the Camp Nou (20:30, CET), Barcelona have the chance to open up further daylight at the top against the last side to beat them.


Just in case Luis Enrique was searching for more reasons to keep his side focused on the title race, Atlético Madrid practically snuffed out Real Madrid’s title bid at the Santiago Bernabéu on Saturday afternoon, with Los Rojiblancos now their main challengers as they cut the gap at the top to five points. Those in the Barça camp were surely hoping for a draw in the Madrid derby, but Griezmann’s strike will not allow Luis Enrique’s men to take their foot off the gas. Nevertheless, the Barça boss was quick to stress that their approach would not be dictated by Saturday’s result: “We’ve got to where we are by thinking that the next three points are vital. That won’t change.” In fact, if Barcelona were looking for a motivation boost then Real Madrid’s slip-up will have provided just that.

Sevilla pay a visit to the Camp Nou in a dress rehearsal of the Copa del Rey final, to be played out in the Vicente Calderón on 22 May, and in Saturday’s press conference Luis Enrique was under no illusions about the quality of the opponents: “They have improved a lot since the first half of the season and they are doing well in Europe. They are a difficult side to play against, with a great coach and a group of teams chasing them,” he said. Furthermore, this is also a record-chasing Barça, and if Los Azulgranas manage at least a draw they will equal Beenhakker’s record at Real Madrid of 34 games unbeaten. However, Barcelona’s last defeat came at the hands of Sevilla in the Sánchez Pizjuán in the first half of the season, the last game the league leaders lost.

Changes. Both sides go into the game after their respective exertions in Europe in midweek, with the fixture scheduling likely to take more of a toll on Sevilla after their Europa League tie against Molde on Thursday than Barça, who played Arsenal on Tuesday. That said, Barça played their strongest eleven in London for the whole 90 minutes, while a favourable 3-0 first-leg advantage enabled Emery to rotate.

Sevilla travel to Catalonia with the honour of being the last side to beat Barcelona, yet Emery’s men do not have an enviable record on the road and are the only side in LaLiga not to record an away win.

In the last meeting between the two, Emery managed to break the curse that followed him whenever he came up against Barcelona. The win constituted the Sevilla coach’s first win against Barça in his career and he will be hoping Lady Luck will be on his side once again.



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