Copa del Rey: Will Barcelona’s Defensive Struggles Continue Against Sevilla?

Copa del Rey: Will Barcelona’s Defensive Struggles Continue Against Sevilla? article feature image

To look at the fixture schedule in La Liga and not see either Barcelona or Real Madrid is somewhat underwhelming, but that’s because the former are in action in the Copa del Rey final this Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET).

The league leaders face Sevilla and are aiming to lift their first trophy under Ernesto Valverde with a double very much on the cards, even if dreams of the treble disappeared after an unforgettable loss in Rome. Indeed, both of these sides exited the Champions League at the quarterfinal stage, but Sevilla did so in far less dramatic and embarrassing fashion.

 

A 2-1 aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich is nothing to be sniffed at, and Los Rojiblancos have enjoyed the underdog role in the past. It’s when Vincenzo Montella’s side have been expected to win that things have gone awry.  Last month, Sevilla secured a famous victory over Manchester United at Old Trafford but have failed to win in the seven matches since — although they have still earned some decent results in that time.

Since the turn of the year, the Andalusian outfit have picked up two victories over Atletico Madrid to reach this stage of the cup, defeated United and drawn with Bayern, Villarreal and Barcelona. It’s heavy defeats to the likes of Eibar and Celta Vigo that render Sevilla so unpredictable.

With that in mind, Barcelona (-236) must be wary and they certainly don’t seem to have fully recovered from what was a dreadful match in the Italian capital on April 10th. Barca were fortunate to beat Valencia on Saturday before drawing with Celta this week.

The tie between these two sides just three weeks ago should be warning enough that Sevilla (+686), on their day, aren’t to be underestimated.

Barca required two very late goals to earn that point after Sevilla had taken a 2-0 lead at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium. Not surprisingly, it was Lionel Messi who came to the rescue from the bench to keep the Catalans’ La Liga unbeaten streak intact. There’s no chance the Argentine will be rested on Saturday, however, and without wanting to state the obvious, he is the man that Montella will be most keen to keep quiet in the final.

The 30-year-old has failed to score in his last three appearances after finding the net 12 times in his previous nine games, but he loves to play against Sevilla as much as they hate to face him. Indeed, Messi has scored more goals in his career against this Saturday’s opponents than any other (30), including 13 in the past 13 meetings.

Depending on the bookmaker, you can find odds between 1.44 (-227) and 1.64 (-156) on the forward to score at any time, and I would advise a bet only toward the top end of that range. There isn’t a great deal of value on Barcelona to win either, so one needs to dig a little more deeply to find the best bets for this weekend.

The prices on over 2.5 goals are also incredibly low, so with both a Barcelona win and plenty of goals being scored looking so likely in the odds, the fact that you can find an offer as high as 2.75 (+175) on the favorites to win and both teams scoring is very tempting. Including last month’s draw with Sevilla, Barcelona have conceded in six consecutive matches, with a particularly suspect defense in the latter stages of matches.

The champions-elect in Spain have conceded in the second half of all six of said fixtures, and in the final 10 minutes of four of their last five. With Barca having also scored themselves after the break in all six of said encounters, however, the real drama may come late on in Madrid so odds of 3.00 (+200) on both teams finding the net in the second half could be worth a bet.


Photo: Sevilla celebrate their victory over Leganes.