Since the return of football in Spain, one of the biggest questions fans were asking was: Which one of the bull dogs of La Liga ie. Real Madrid and FC Barcelona will drop points first? On Friday night we got the answer with a potentially season defining 0-0 draw for FC Barcelona against Sevilla FC at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium.
Coming into the game Barcelona knew it was one of the hardest challenges for the club for the remainder of the season. A win would have meant they would move 5 points ahead of their arch-nemesis, Real Madrid. Although Real would have the chance 2 days later on Sunday to cutback that gap to 2 points with a win against Real Sociedad. On the other side Sevilla needed a win to hold their spot on the 3rd place of the table, knowing very well that Atletico Madrid is lurking right behind them.
On the night of the game Barcelona were without the services of indisputably their best mid-fielder Frenkie De Jong due to injury. In the attack it looks like Martin Braithwaite has moved higher up in the pecking order ahead of Antoine Griezmann with Barcleona Coach Quique Setien picking the Dane over the Frenchmen for a key game. Julen Lopetegui had chosen to start Ever Banega on the bench however, he did come on at the half time mark.
In the first half of the match FC Barcelona were repeatedly knocking on Sevilla’s door for that first goal but, they couldn’t find that final touch. Sevilla somehow managed to keep the game 0-0 with Barca dominating and controlling the game. In the second half, Sevilla turned the tide with the home team now putting the pressure on the league leaders. The introduction of Ever Banega proved to be a game changer but another important factor to consider was the fitness of the Barcelona palyers.
The average age of the starting 11 was a woeful 30.7 years, the oldest in the club’s 121 year history. This showed on the pitch with clear signs of the players getting fatigued in the second half. A major lapse on the part of Setien was his substitutions on the night. After specifically addressing the matter of 5 subs allowing a team to change nearly half their squad and thus potentially changing the entire tempo of the game. It felt a little ironic that he himself didn’t use those substitutions to his own benefit, or even using all his 5 substitutions rather using only 3. Even the substitutions were a big surprise themselves. Martin Braithwaite was brought off for Arthur Melo instead of Ansu Fati the scorer of the opening goal of the previuos match. Then Griezmann was brought on for Arturo Vidal instead of Luis Suarez who has just returned from a long term injury but, perhaps the most surprising fact was that Lionel Messi has played all 270 possible minutes since the return of football and hasn’t been given any time off.
With Barcelona dropping 2 crucial points, the pressure was on Real Madrid to take advantage and the pressure showed in the first half. However, in the second half the Galacticos came out with all guns blazing and their captain Sergio Ramos put them in the lead. After a very controversial goal from Karim Benzema Real had put the game to bed. Even though Sociedad pulled a goal back it didn’t matter. Real has taken the top spot with no intentions of letting it go. With the harder run of fixtures and a big injury to Frenkie De Jong, Barcelona’s chances of winning the league looks slimmer than ever with Real looking to march towards their first league title in 3 seasons.