It was against Barcelona in the UEFA Super Cup that Sevilla’s extraordinary powers of reinvention were evident once again. It would also give Athletic’s manager Ernesto Valverde something new to think about tactically, after he won the battle of the coaches in the first two matches between the sides this August.
“Losing Xavi and Pedro hasn’t made us weaker”.
Spain centre back Gerard Pique was sent off in Monday’s second leg for insulting a linesman and banned for four matches and Luis Enrique confirmed the club had appealed the sanction. Behind them, Ivan Rakitic has had a full season at the club and, having becoming increasingly influential following his transfer from Sevilla last summer, should take on even more responsibility in midfield.
That said, Barca start the season by returning to Bilbao on Sunday night, and have another hard away trip to Atletico Madrid in week three.
The Frenchman will start at least the first four games of the season, after Pique’s foul-mouthed tirade at the linesman in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup earned him a lengthy ban. First, club president Florentino Perez sacked coach Carlo Ancelotti without being able to explain why. But the first month is free, and the subscription can be cancelled at any time. There are only so many times we can see Victor Valdes and David De Gea doing their Statler and Waldorf impression from their seats at Old Trafford, or watch Real Madrid put on one of those gala ceremonies – this year Sergio Ramos got one just for staying and Iker Casillas was given one for leaving. His cautious tactics and famous rotation policy may or may not be accepted by superstars Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.
Athletic are unbeaten in seven league games (W4 D3); they have not gone eight in a row without defeat since November 2011 under Marcelo Bielsa.
Barcelona to score over 2.5 goals is offered at 7/5 (2.40) and looks like being an intelligent way of backing the Blaugrana, for those punters confident that they will recapture their form.
“Teams like Barca have this advantage: very good players leave and others arrive who adapt to help us in competition and so that we have a good level”, defender Marc Bartra said Friday. “It was a game of great tension in which we were playing for a lot”.
Any side with that trio probably has to be favorite to win the title, given their ability to conjure a goal out of nothing, although Barca may well regret the sale of forward Pedro Rodriguez to Chelsea.
“I went to the Bernabeu two hours before my friends, to get a place in the third level, standing up”.
The 28-year-old will miss Barcelona’s opening La Liga match with Athletic Bilbao this weekend, as well as league clashes against Malaga, Atletico Madrid and Levante. Inspirational Argentine coach Diego Simeone has overseen some canny business in the latest transfer window, including luring Colombia striker Jackson Martinez from Porto.