Sarabia of Sevilla FC against FC Barcelona
Pre-match reports

THE CUP DEMANDS THE RETURN OF A STRONGER SEVILLA AGAINST A BARCELONA WITHOUT MESSI

After the disappointment in the Bernabéu and three consecutive defeats, Sevilla need to get back to winning ways in Nervión against Barcelona who are waiting for the return leg to play their top players

Atlético Madrid, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona in 18 days. 2019 has had a demanding start for Sevilla, making them come up against the three most demanding teams in the country by the third week of January.  This is what happens when you are a regular feature in the late stages of the cup, the draw is random and can pit two challengers up against each other earlier than expected. It has done so just now, when Machín's team seem to be going through their first doubts since the team started off on their magnificent run back in September.

It is unusual for Machín's Sevilla to be defeated three times in a row and the next opponent is not exactly the ideal one to leave the run behind. The Azulgranas seem to have the measure of Sevilla this century, as in their 21 trips to the Sánchez-Pizjuán they have eleven wins and six draws, only suffering defeat four times. These figures contrast with last century's, which had 30 home wins, 20 for Barcelona and 24 draws. Although the record in official tournaments is still in Sevilla's favour with three more wins, it is true that the Sánchez-Pizjuán has proved a favourable ground for Barcelona in recent times.

Messi, who will not play tonight, has scored nine goals in his 14 visits to Nervión

If this change in fortunes is down to one person, it's Lionel Messi, who has played in 14 of Barcelona's 21 matches here this century, scoring nine goals. An important trump card who has not travelled this time to Nervión, in addition to Sergio Busquets and Dembelé - the latter due to an injury that will also keep him out of the second leg. Without the Argentine or the Frenchman, Valverde's team lose a lot of their firepower up front, something which could have an impact on another important stat - Barcelona have scored at Sevilla in 19 consecutive games. They have not failed to score since a 0-0 league draw in 2002/03.

Neither are Sevilla free from injuries and absences, with Gonalons and Nolito out through their respective bone injuries, in addition to Gnagnon and Munir's musuclar injuries. It could be Wöber's first time in the squad, although, counting Bryan, Machín now has 20 players in his first team. In any case, the squad will not be known until midday. Regarding Madrid, the main change in the squad should be Roque Mesa, who missed out on the match in the Bernabéu through suspension.

Munir and Gnagnon will miss the match through injuries picked up the day before the match 

It will be essential to draw first blood in this match to leave Sevilla in the best possible position for the return leg at the Camp Nou. It is a match that understandably draws all the intention, but neither should Saturday's league match against Levante be forgotten, especially given Sevilla have only won two of the last twelve points in the league and fifth place creeping up on them.

In terms of the referee, the match will be supervised by Carlos Del Cerro Grande, who referees his fourth Sevilla match this season. In fact, he refereed the Supercup match in Tangiers between Sevilla and Barcelona. He also refereed the league match against Valladolid at home and the recent win in the cup at the San Mamés.

Communication Department