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Barça face a sure Sampaoli and Sevilla's formidable 12th man

Sampaoli wins over the doubters  

We’ve a good game in store at the Sánchez Pizjuán tonight. Sevilla coach Sampaoli seems to have won over the doubters. He started the season losing two SuperCups and that didn’t ingratiate him to the fans (they didn’t even pardon the fact that they were against Real Madrid and Barcelona). The coach’s way of talking – so emphatically putting style ahead of results – only exaggerated Sevilla fans’ moodiness. Despite a thrilling 6-4 home win over Espanyol early in the campaign, the result created yet more controversy: supporters saw it as a commotion and left thinking that it could have easily ended 4-6. This period of doubt has now passed however. Primarily through results, but lately through their play too.

SAMPAOLI (l) and LUIS ENRIQUE (r)

A Sevilla model that works 

Sampaoli has definitively set up his side with three firm centrebacks, two wingbacks, between which Nzonzi sits like a lighthouse, three more midfielders higher up (with the revelation of Nasri, of who it would be difficult to expect more), and a striker in the form of Vietto. Vietto is no Gameiro, but he’s beginning to get off the mark. The whole thing works. Tonight Nasri may be missing, although that won’t be known until the 11th hour. We might see Ganso, he who has talent in abundance but lacks spirit, or perhaps we’ll see more of a battling player. In any case, a great Sevilla team is expected, with 50,000 enthusiasts roaring them on from the start.

Sevilla's 12th man

Barça without an architect, but a lethal MSN

Barça are another topic. Three fantastic strikers, but a side currently without an architect (Iniesta), and one in which if Pique is missing, there is a lack of fight too. This imperfect model leaves Sergio Busquets in too much solitude, and for that reason things are starting not to look the same. Without Alba and Iniesta, Barcelona are short on solutions. But let me return to the start of this paragraph: Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar. No one else has this. This is what we’re going to see come up against the Sampaoli model and the fevered Pizjuán crowd, who are the very epitome of the 12th man concept.