Barcelona’s hopes of lifting the Champions League trophy at Wembley for the second time in three years were dealt a blow on Wednesday evening after an underwhelming performance in the San Siro saw the Catalan club humbled 2-0 by AC Milan.
It saw their tags as tournament favourites pass over to Bayern Munich, but there is still the second leg to come at the Camp Nou in three weeks’ time and they’ll want to head into that game on the back of a good set of results to keep confidence high.
In the continued absence of boss Tito Vilanova, who is currently in New York undergoing treatment for cancer, the immediate challenge for his players is the visit of Sevilla as Barca get back to work in La Liga, where they sit 12 points clear of Atletico Madrid at the top of the table.
The Catalan club have been in sublime form domestically this season, losing just one game, drawing two and winning the other 21, and they look to have all but wrested the league title back from champions Real Madrid, who sit 16 points adrift in third.
Like most games in La Liga, Barca head into this match as the overwhelming favourites at 9/50 to get back to winning ways, with the draw at 6/1, while what would be a major upset should Sevilla bag maximum points can be backed at 23/2.
On paper, this match should be a comfortable victory for the home side, with Sevilla sitting in mid-table and having not won in the league against their hosts since a 2-1 victory back in 2007 – or even scored a goal on their last four visits.
That said, Sevilla head into the game on the back of three wins in four, which suggests that Unai Emery is starting to coax some improved performances from their players after replacing Michel last month.
So Barca would be well advised not to take their opponents lightly, especially after they only beat them 3-2 away from home back in September thanks to a very late David Villa strike.
Unsurprisingly, Lionel Messi is the favourite to open the scoring at 6/4, and it’s hard to look past the Argentinean, who has bagged 14 goals in his 18 career appearances against Sevilla, as well as a total of 44 in all competitions this season.
Sevilla, however, will fancy their chances of finding the net against a side that have kept just five clean sheets in the league, three at home, and who have conceded in each of their last 10 matches in all competitions.
Barca have leaked nine goals at home, but only one side (Real Madrid) has scored more than once at the Nou Camp, so backing Sevilla to score one goal in the game at 29/20, as has been the case for seven other visitors to Catalunya, looks tempting.
Where Barca are involved this season, there are always goals, with the Blaugrana managing to find the net 80 times in just 24 league matches – more than any other side in the league – as well as scoring in every league game so far this campaign.
Eighteen of their 24 matches have seen over 3.5 goals scored in total, which has also been the case in their last six matches at home in all competitions, and backing that to happen once again on Saturday evening looks an absolute banker at 13/20.
Two defeats in a week for arguably the best side in the world at this present time seems unthinkable, and while Sevilla are more than capable of giving Barca a game, the league leaders should have more than enough quality to record maximum points.
With that in mind, the 17/20 on Messi and company winning a game featuring over 3.5 goals is where my money will be going.