Preview: Sevilla vs Barcelona

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Sevilla take on Barcelona at the Sanchez Pizjuan in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup. Barcelona qualified for this competition having done the domestic double last season beating Sevilla 2-0 aet in the final of the Copa del Rey. Sevilla will therefore be looking for revenge for that defeat and will be hoping to mimic Athletic Bilbao who stunned Barcelona 4-0 in the first leg of last year’s Spanish Super Cup. Similar to that game Barcelona will again be without the services of Neymar (Olympics) and Jordi Alba (not called up by Luis Enrique) out of the travelling squad.

While Barcelona’s squad is generally settled, Sevilla’s team has undergone a major revamp with coach Unai Emery moving on to Paris St. Germain and the likes of Beto, Ever Banega, Kevin Gamiero, Fernando Llorente, Grzegorz Kruchowiak, Coke and Jose Antonio Reyes all moving on. In many senses it was the end of an era with several of the aforementioned players being a part of Sevilla’s hat-trick of Europa League titles. But as usual, Sevilla with the superstar sporting director Monchi have done good business in the market getting former Chile coach Jorge Sampaoli in along with Pable Sarabia, Lucas Kranvitter, Ganso, Luciano Vietto and Gabriel Mercado.

Sevilla come into the game having won all 6 of their pre-season games only to lose the European Supercup final in excruciating fashion to Real Madrid. Barcelona meanwhile have looked very shaky in defence all pre-season allowing 9 goals in their 4 games. The Spanish Supercup promises to be a fascinating encounter with goals all round.

Recent Head to Head:

2015/2016

Copa del Rey

May 2016 Barcelona 2 Sevilla 0

La Liga

Feb 2016 Barcelona 2 Sevilla 1

Oct 2015 Sevilla 2 Barcelona 1

European Super Cup

Aug 2015 Barcelona 5 Sevilla 4 aet.

2014/2015

La Liga

Apr 2015 Sevilla 2 Barcelona 2

Nov 2014 Barcelona 5 Sevilla 1

Key Man Watch

Lionel Messi: Messi has been in superb form this pre-season racking up the goals and assists at will.On a ground in recent seasons where Barcelona have found it difficult to get good results the Blaugrana will be looking to their greatest ever player to guide them to yet another trophy.

Luciano Vietto: The Argentine striker could have been starting this game for Barcelona had things worked out differently. Instead he will lead the Sevilla front line against a Barcelona defence that has given up almost 2 goals per game in the pre-season. He will no doubt be looking to show Barcelona what they missed out on as he attempts to get his career back on track in Seville.

Possible starting xi

Bravo; Sergi Roberto; Mascherano; Pique; Digne; Rakitic; Busquets; Iniesta; Arda; Messi; Suarez

Prediction

Barcelona have traditionally found the going tough at Sevilla having not won on their last 2 trips to Seville. Given that their defence has appeared far from settled this pre-season it would be no surprise to sell quite a few goals fly in during this one. Sevilla 2 Barcelona 2

Result: Barcelona 0 Liverpool 4

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Lionel Messi after a Liverpool goal

Barcelona rounded out their International Champions Cup with a humiliating 4-0 defeat to Liverpool. Barcelona had come into the game with a chance to win the trophy should they have triumphed by 4 goals, instead it was all 1 way traffic as Liverpool made minced meat of the shaky Blaugrana backline.

New signing Sadio Mane opened the scoring in the 15th minute when he ran onto Adam Lallana’s pass into the area and slammed the ball past a hapless ter Stegen in goal. Barcelona almost struck back in the 23rd minute when Leo Messi ran onto Luis Suarez’s flicked ball into the area but his left footed strike found the post with goalkeeper Mingolet soundly beaten. Arda Turan would then have his effort saved in the 28th minute before the rebound was cleared for a corner with an empty goal gaping. Munir el Haddadi then played in Luis Suarez for a wonderful chance with a brilliant cross-field ball but the Uruguayan again found Mingolet equal to the task.

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Liverpool celebrate during their demolition of Barcelona

If the first half was even the second was over before it began. In the 47th minute Sadio Mane got past a hapless Jeremy Mathieu in before squaring only for Javier Mascherano to put the ball past Claudio Bravo who had just come on as a substitute. Barcelona barely had time to kick off when Busquets lost the ball in midfield and Origi found himself with endless space as the Barcelona center backs parted like the red sea leaving him with an easy finish. 3-0 down after 48 minutes and the game was effectively sealed.

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Javier Mascherano puts the ball past Claudio Bravo

There was still time for the Reds to rub salt into the Blaugrana wounds as Marko Grujic ran onto a floated ball and looped a header past the stunned Bravo. The Blaugrana well and truly embarrassed then by a team that could not qualify for Europe for the coming season. There will undoubtedly be a lot of introspection on this result as the defense looked to be a serious problem and one can imagine that there will be quite a few harsh words from the coach to the team should a result like this re-occur during the season. Highlights of the game can be seen here.

Lineup (4-3-3): Jordi Masip: Aleix Vidal; Javier Maschernao; Jeremy Mathieu; Camara: Denis Suarez; Sergio Busquets; Arda Turan: Lionel Messi; Luis Suarez; Munir el Haddadi

Substitutes: Subs: Claudio Bravo (ter Stegen 45), Lucas Digne (Camara 60), Gerard Pique (Javier Mascherano 60), Sergi Roberto (Aleix Vidal 45), Sergi Samper (Denis Suarez, 75), Rafa Mujica (Luis Suarez 75), Ivan Rakitic (Sergio Busquets 60), Andres Iniesta (Arda Turan 60), Jesus Alfaro (Lionel Messi 75).

 

Preview: Barcelona vs Sampdoria

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Barcelona and Sampdoria clash for the Joan Gamper Trophy

Sampdoria have a long history with Barcelona being the team that Barca beat in the 1992 European Cup final thanks that a spectacular Ronald Koeman free kick. Barca have faced Sampdoria twice in the Gamper Trophy twice recently in 1997 and 2012, winning the first encounter on penalties after a 2-2 draw and losing the second 1-0.

This Barcelona team however is an entirely different prospect to the team that they faced in those times and are undoubtedly one of the finest teams in Europe. What’s more following on that 4-0 humiliation by Liverpool at Wembley, the Blaugrana will no doubt be hungry to set things straight prior to their Spanish Super Cup first leg on Sunday. With a full squad finally to select from Luis Enrique’s side should be ready and raring to go for the annual curtain raiser.

Sampdoria meanwhile despite seeing no fewer than 8 departures from last season’s squad have shown defensive stability in their 2 games of note this pre-season against Chievo and Malaga and are yet to concede a goal.

 

Recent Head to Head:

2012/2013

Joan Gamper Trophy

Aug 2012 Barcelona 0 Sampdoria 1

Key Man Watch

Arda Turan: Time is running out for the Turkish playmaker to show that he belongs in this Barcelona team. With Rakitic, Iniesta and Andre Gomes all ready to play in this game, and Samper and Denis Suarez claiming their first team jerseys, he could find himself looking in at the first team from the stands if he doesn’t take his opportunities.

Ricky Alvarez: The Argentine play-maker promised much when he joined Inter for 13 million euros in 2011. He has not delivered on that promise and after a disappointing 3 years was sent to Sunderland before finally joining Sampdoria in December 2015. He would love to prove the doubters wrong and show that like many other players he was simply a late bloomer. The opportunity to do this starts at Barcelona in the Gamper.

Possible starting xi:

Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto; Mascherano; Mathieu; Digne; Denis; Busquets; Arda; Messi; Suarez; Munir

Prediction:  The Last time these teams met Sampdoria won 1-0 after a second minute goal when Roberto Soriano scored a diving header from Pedro Obiang’s cross from the left flank. That 1-0 loss was the last loss Barcelona suffered in the Gamper, with the blaugrana having won the last three editions of the Trophy. Look for Barcelona to make amends for their horror show versus Liverpool . Barcelona 3 Sampdoria 0

Vermaelen has medical as Roma move looms

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Vermaelen on his way to Roma

Thomas Vermaelen has been given permission to travel to Italy to undergo a medical prior to completing a move to Roma. Vermaelen who joined Barcelona in 2014 from Arsenal for a fee of 15 million euros following a number of injury plagued seasons with the Gunners. He played a total of just 1 game in his first season due to injury and 20 games last season scoring 1 goal, the winner against Malaga.

Vermaelen is the second defender to leave Barcelona in the last few days after left back Adriano joined Besiktas for a reported fee of 600,000 euros with the possibility of the fee rising to 2.3 million euros. Adriano won a total of 16 trophies with Barcelona including 4 league titles, 3 Copa del Rey titles and 2 Champions League titles. He scored some stunning strikes during his time at Barca including these.

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Adriano completing his move to Besiktas

With Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Digne and Marlon all having joined it was expected that the Barcelona back line would see some departures.

 

Preview: Barcelona vs Liverpool

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Barcelona conclude their 2016-2017 preseason with a match against the English giants Liverpool at Wembley. Barcelona won both of their encounters against the Scottish Champions Celtic and the English Champions Leicester  in their opening encounters and would claim the International Champions Cup should they defeat Liverpool by 4 goals. The reds meanwhile have had a mixed preseason winning 5 games against easier opposition but coming up short against Chelsea and Roma. Barcelona meanwhile are finally closer to full strength with only Jordi Alba, Samuel Umtiti and Andre Gomes not included in the 23 man squad of the available players. Neymar and Rafinha remain in Brazil competing in the Olympics.

Recent Head to Head:

None

Key Man Watch

Munir el Haddadi: Munir has scored 3 goals in the 2 pre-season games thus far and looks to be staking a claim for being the 4th striker this season. He has scored with his left foot and his right foot when set up by Luis Suarez and Leo Messi thus far but his game encompasses much more than simply being a finisher. A good all round performance against Liverpool could see his name penciled into the starting lineup until Neymar is back from the Olympics.

Sadio Mane: The Senegalese international striker joined on a deal from Southampton this summer for a club record 34 million pounds. The highly rated winger notched 15 goals last season and would love to get his first goal for the Reds against the Blaugrana.

Possible starting xi:

Ter Stegen; Aleix Vidal; Pique; Mascherano; Sergi Roberto; Busquets; Denis; Arda; Messi; Suarez; Munir

Prediction: Barcelona are rolling along in their pre-season and should have too much for a Liverpool team still very much in transition under Klopp. Luis Suarez would also love to get one over on his old team so look for him to score and not celebrate. Barcelona 4 Liverpool 0

Result: Barcelona 4 Leicester City 2

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Leo Messi shields the ball during the Barcelona Leicester City game

Barcelona continued their preseason with a 4-2 victory over the English champions in which youngster Munir el Haddadi grabbed a brace. The Catalan giants were should have had this game done and dusted at halftime after they cruised to a 3-0 lead but some sloppy defending allowed Leicester back into the game before youngster Rafael Mujica sealed the game late on.

The first half could not have gone better for the Blaugrana with Munir el Haddadi finding the breakthrough in the 26th minute following a brilliant through ball from Leo Messi. Munir got to the ball ahead of the Leicester right back Danny Simpson and coolly slotted home with his left foot past goalkeeper Zieler. It was his second goal in as many preseason games for the wunderkid.

If the first goal was an example of Barcelona finesse the second was classic Luis Suarez grip. Running onto a chipped ball into the box, the Uruguayan hitman forced the ball between Robert Huth’s legs before getting the ball back off Ben Chilwell’s foot and flicking it past a helpless Zieler in goal with the outside of his right foot. It was typical of the Uruguayan’s bull in a china shop mentality against defenders.

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Luis Suarez celebrates his goal

The game was then effectively put to bed when Munir added his 3rd goal in 2 preseason games following a brilliant counter attack.Leo Messi collected the ball on the right hand flank in the middle of his own half and turned inside past 2 defenders before feeding Suarez on the left hand flank. The Uruguayan then found Munir running through the center of the Leicester City defence with a wonderful lobbed through ball that the striker gleefully controlled with his left before flicking past the hapless Leicester City goalkeeper for the 3rd goal on the stroke of halftime. With all of the talk about a fourth striker being required Munir was making his point that the solution may already be at Barcelona.

Barcelona changed things round a bit in the 2nd half with Javier Mascherano and Sergio Busquets coming on for Marlon and Aleix Vidal for their first games of the pre-season with Sergi Roberto moving from defensive midfield into the right back slot. The changes seemed to unsettle the Barca defence which up to that point had been fairly solid. In the 47th minute Javier Mascherano came forward into the Leicester City half to challenge Okazaki who managed to flick to the ball on to Leicester’s new record signing Ahmed Musa. Musa easily stepped past Jeremy Mathieu before beating Sergi Roberto badly for pace and slotting home past Jordi Masip in the Barcelona goal.

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Ahmed Musa during the Barcelona Leicester City game

Leicester City then got right back into the game when Jefferey Schlupp took the ball away from Camara on the left and fed Ahmed Musa who powered a right footed blast into the Barcelona net giving Masip absolutely no chance. With Leicester City on the charge Barcelona appeared stunned and took some time to recover. However in the 84th minute with Leicester City pushing forward looking for the equalizer Barcelona took advantage when Rafael Mujica took advantage of a scramble in the box to curl home the goal that settled the game following a ball inside from Carbonell on the left.

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Sergi Samper looks for options during the Barcelona Leicester City game

The English Champions vanquished then and another good workout for the Blaugrana ended in victory. Barcelona will next take on Liverpool in their final game of the International Champions Trophy and will need to beat the reds by 4 goals to wrest the title away from defending champions Paris St Germain. Leicester City meanwhile take on FA Cup winners Manchester United in the Community shield. Highlights of the game can be seen here.

Lineup (4-3-3): Jordi Masip: Aleix Vidal; Marlon Santos; Jeremy Mathieu; Camara: Denis Suarez; Sergi Roberto; Arda Turan: Lionel Messi; Luis Suarez; Munir el Haddadi

Substitutes: Subs: J.Suárez (Masip 76), Jose Martínez (Jeremy Mathieu 76), Javier Mascherano (Marlon 45), Sergio Busquets (Aleix Vidal 45), Sergi Samper (Arda Turan 62), Aleñá (Lionel Messi 62), Alex Carbonell (Munir el Haddadi 76), Rafael Mujica (Denis Suarez 76), Nili (Camara 76), Jesus Alfaro (Luis Suarez 76).

Barcelona Continue Search for Backup Striker

The La Liga Options

Barcelona have spent much of the summer transfer window searching for a striker to back up their MSN trident. As was reported on this blog back in early July president Josep Marie Bartomeu had indicated that the club was looking to sign an additional striker. The names linked at that point included, Kevin Gamiero, Luciano Vietto, Lucas Perez and Gabriel Jesus. Vietto joined Sevilla  on a 3 million euro loan with an option to join permanently at the end of the year following an tug of war for his services with the Blagurana, while Kevin Gamiero moved in the opposite direction for 32 million euros.

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Vietto at his presentation for Sevilla

A Tale of Two Gabis

With Vietto and Gamiero out of the picture, Barcelona looked to Brazil to fill the void for a backup striker. Top of their list were 2 Brazilian players, Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Barbosa. The president even went so far as to call Gabriel Jesus “a great player”, while Barcelona had the first option of Gabriel Barbosa as part of the Neymar deal. Unfortunately however it seems neither player will be joining Barcelona as Gabriel Jesus agreed a deal to join Manchester City today for 27 million pounds and Gabriel Barbosa’s agent saying he was open to joining Inter Milan or Juventus.

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Gabriel Jesus left and Gabriel Barbosa right

The Remaining Options

With the aforementioned strikers not likely to join there are a few names still linked with Barcelona.

Luan Vieira

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PORTO ALEGRE, BRAZIL – APRIL 19: Luan of Gremio battles for the ball against Gerardo Flores of Toluca during the match Gremio v Toluca as part of Copa Bridgestone Libertadores 2016, at Arena do Gremio on April 19, 2016 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. (Photo by Lucas Uebel/Getty Images)

Luan is one of the brightest prospects in Brazilian football right now who plays for Gremio (The same club that produced Ronaldinho). At just 23 years old he has room to develop as a player and eventually become a starter for the Blaugrana. He scored 17 goals last season and can play both on the flanks or centrally. He is currently with the Brazil team taking part in the Olympics with Neymar leading the charge. What’s more his club Gremio reportedly rejected an offer from Liverpool in hopes of recieving one from the Blaugrana. Some of his better plays can be seen here.

Mario Gomez

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during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group C match between Northern Ireland and Germany at Parc des Princes on June 21, 2016 in Paris, France.

Mario Gomez at age 31 would represent an experienced forward who has scored goals at the highest level for Germany and Bayern Munich including 2 goals at the recently concluded Euro 2016. He spent last season on loan at Besiktas where he scored 28 goals however he would like to move due to the political situation there currently. A Besiktas spokesman confirmed that he was in talks with Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund yesterday.

Andre-Pierre Gignac

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Andre-Pierre Gignac celebrates a goal for Les Bleus

Another experience striker being linked to Barcelona is Andre-Pierre Gignac (30). Currently playing at Tigres in the Mexican league, Gignac has goals in his blood and has scored 32, 23 and 22 goals in his last 3 seasons and was a member of the French National team that were runners up at Euro 2016. Along with Umtiti and Digne he would represent the 3rd member of the French Euro 2016  squad signed this off season by Barcelona. The Tigres coach confirmed yesterday that the club would not stand in the way of a move to Barcelona.