LaLiga leaders Barcelona take on Sevilla at the Camp Nou on Saturday.
The Catalans have dropped only two points, while Sevilla have started strongly and occupy fifth place. Here, Football Paradise looks at some talking points surrounding the game.
Has Luis lost his appetite?
Luis Suarez has scored only three goals in 13 games, certainly a poor return for a player widely regarded as one of the best strikers in the world. The former Liverpool man has shown signs of fatigue this season and now he is entering his fourth decade he may not be able to sustain such a high level of intensity throughout a campaign, especially given his high-energy style of play. Against Olympiacos in the Champions League, Suarez took more shots without scoring than in any other game for Barca, suggesting it may be time for a much-needed rest. With Uruguay opting against calling him up for their impending friendlies, his goal-scoring touch may return soon.
The recent results between these rivals make for grim reading if you are a Sevilla fan. The Andalusians have won just one league game against the Catalan side in 10 years. That win came in October 2015 with Michael Krohn-Dehli and Vicente Iborra scoring for Sevilla. That was one of five defeats for Barcelona during a season where they were crowned as champions on the final day of the season. In fact Sevilla have been unable to keep Barcelona from scoring since 2011, in a goalless draw at the Nou Camp where Lionel Messi missed a late penalty.
Goals the problem
Sevilla have scored the fewest goals among the top six, with only 11 so far. The lack of a natural goalscorer has been the problem as Wissam Ben Yedder is seen as more of a creator and Luis Muriel has never been a prolific finisher. Sevilla are a team crying out for someone similar to former player Alvaro Negredo. They are unable to put crosses in to try and mix up the attack, making them a one-dimensional team. With Barca’s remarkable defensive record in LaLiga – they have conceded only three goals – it could be a difficult night for Sevilla.
If Sevilla are going to get anything out of the game they will have to rely on their midfield duo of former Stoke man Steven N’Zonzi and Franco Vazquez. The Italian playmaker has been Sevilla’s key creative outlet thus far. While only two assists may not be grabbing any headlines, he is playing in a side which has struggled for goals. He has created the most chances, with 12 suggesting he could be the man to unlock the Barcelona defence this weekend. N’Zonzi is responsible for the other side of Sevilla’s game. The French enforcer is a key part of a defensive unit which has only conceded nine goals all season, five coming when N’Zonzi has not been on the pitch.
One of the best to ever play football will be relishing this weekend’s fixture. In Barcelona’s 3-0 win over Sevilla in April, Messi scored twice resulting in them becoming his favourite opponent. The Argentinian has 23 league goals against Sevilla, scoring in each of his last eight games against them in the league to outstrip his 22-goal haul against Atletico Madrid. The current LaLiga top-scorer will be looking to extend that record this week.