Sevilla’s centennial anthem, beautiful and inspiring, was the fuel that lit the fire for the re-emergence of an illustrious club whose laurels had been gathering dust but who since then have been enjoying the most successful period in their history. “They say we never give up…” goes one verse and Sevilla have made it their stock in trade to confirm that statement. On Tuesday a 95th minute Munir winner secure a victory that could have been tied up in the first half. In the second, Sevilla were under pressure and Krasnodar equalized, but the visitors maintained their faith, went for the win and earned it on the final whistle. Julen Lopetegui’s side are built like granite. And they are now into the knock-out stages of the Champions League with two games to spare. All that is left is to contest top spot with Chelsea.
But the main focus of Tuesday’s action was on how Barcelona would fare on their European travels without Leo Messi. Well, without Messi and several other players. Once installed in Kiev, Ronald Koeman sprung another surprise by reserving three of his strongest available cards from the outset: Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembélé and Jordi Alba. The result was a side with only two regular first-team starters in Marc-Andre ter Stegen, captain for the evening, and Clément Lenglet. The remainder I doubt had amassed 40 appearances for Barça between them before Tuesday. A side made up mostly of deserving youngsters, blended with players somewhere between something and nothing and two who had been previously consigned to the unwanted drawer.
Barcelona boss Dynamo with reserve XI
But, it worked. Free of the requirement to constantly seek Messi and the distracting strides of Frenkie de Jong, the reserve unit moved the ball about with agility and purpose. Barcelona not only beat Dynamo Kiev but bossed them with more authority than Koeman’s regular starting XI managed in the reverse fixture at Camp Nou. That is good news for Koeman, who did not call upon Griezmann until the game was beyond doubt but with time enough remaining for the Frenchman to enjoy adding the final touch. Another plus for Barça: Óscar Mingueza looked the real deal in the centre of defence, a complete package wrapped in calm assuredness. All in all, the evening left a sensation of optimism over Can Barça, with four goals that will provide Messi with a few other things to ponder.