Madrid, April 20 (IANS) FC Barcelona will look for their fourth successive win in the Spanish King’s Cup and to take the first step towards a domestic football league and Cup double when they face Sevilla at the Wanda Metropolitano Stadium here on Saturday night.
The game is a repeat of the 2016 final, which saw the Catalan powerhouse beat Sevilla 2-0 after extra time, reports Xinhua news agency.
The scheduling of the game is far from ideal — not for the first time in Spain unfortunately — as it comes hot on the heels of a round of midweek fixtures in the La Liga. It meant that Barcelona and Sevilla, who both played their respective games on Tuesday, have had three days to prepare for one of the most important games of the season.
Both Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde and his Sevilla counterpart, Vincenzo Montella made numerous changes to their usual starting elevens on Tuesday to ensure that key players are in the best possible shape for Saturday.
Tiredness has appeared to be a factor for both sides in recent weeks, as both were knocked out of the quarter-finals of the Champions League and Montella’s policy of limiting squad rotations during his side’s European and Cup runs has worn his players down.
Valverde has tried to turn things around more at Barcelona, but has struggled to find reliable replacements for players such as Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi.
Messi will be the key factor in the final: For once he looked off pace in Barcelona’s Champions League exit to Roma, but was rested on Tuesday and has shown time and again that he has an ability to bounce back with a match-winning performance when his side needs him.
Indeed the Argentinean was decisive as Barcelona came back from 0-2 down away against Sevilla recently in the Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium in their recent league clash.
Sevilla had outrun and outplayed Barcelona, but Messi seemed to exert a hypnotic influence on them as the latter netted twice in the last three minutes to seal a draw, with the equalising goal being a drilled left foot shot from the Argentine forward.
Barcelona will field their strongest available side with Sergi Roberto available despite being sent off in Vigo on Tuesday. And a team with the firepower provided by Messi, Suarez, Phillipe Coutinho and Andres Iniesta, who is expected to announce a move to China soon after the final, is clearly going to be the favourite to win.
Sevilla meanwhile will be hoping players such as influential midfielders Pablo Sarabia, Steven N’Zonzi and Fran Vazquez are fully recovered and will also hope that the trickery and pace of Luis Muriel and Joaquin Correa will pose Barcelona the same problems it did earlier in March.
Sevilla will probably have more supporters in the stadium on Saturday night, but will their noise be enough to keep Messi quiet?