Despite the cruel blow that Liverpool received Saturday when the better side lost to Manchester United, Rafa Benitez will be smiling on the streets of Merseyside this weekend. That’s because he will have watched Sevilla’s 2-1 win against Barca, and he would have seen the keys to ensuring that Barcelona gets knocked out of the Champions League on Tuesday at Anfield.
On La Liga Talk, I wrote about my pleasure of seeing Barcelona stream together 32 consecutive passes starting in the first minute of the match against Sevilla this past Saturday. But what’s equally incredible is how Sevilla defended against Barcelona while they knocked the ball around the pitch. It’s something you have to see to believe, but Sevilla pushed Barcelona back, way back, into their own half and stopped Barca from moving the ball up the pitch. That’s part of the reason Barcelona was able to string so many passes together. Their defenders couldn’t get the ball into midfield without Sevilla being on top of them ready to pounce and steal the ball away.
Barcelona looks like a wounded animal. They’re playing, as GolTV commentator Phil Schoen so rightly points out, a 3-7-0 formation with no true running striker up front to chase the balls. But despite scoring a wonderful first goal, Ronaldinho is continuing to go through a rough patch right now. Against Sevilla, he had a perfect chance to put the game out of the reach of Sevilla with a penalty in the 28th minute, which he struck right down the middle only for Palop to stop it with his feet.
Another weak spot for Barcelona is goalkeeper Valdes who, after making a blunder against Liverpool in the first leg when he failed to keep out Bellamy’s header, was unable to stop Daniel Alves’s free kick that took a slight deflection and went into the back of the net. It was a free kick that someone like Petr Cech would have saved. If Liverpool can pressure Valdes like they did against Van der Sar this past Saturday, the Reds have a good chance of scoring from a Valdes mistake yet again.
Tuesday beckons, and you have to say it’s the biggest football match since last year’s World Cup Final. I can’t wait.