FC Barcelona (-154) at Sevilla (+405), Draw (+309); handicap: Barcelona -1
The Spanish Super Cup is supposed to pit the La Liga champ against the winner of the Copa Del Rey. But Barcelona won both of those last year, and they can’t very well play themselves. (I’d hate to think how high the score would be if they could.) So this Sunday, Barca will square off with the Copa runner-up, Sevilla, at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in Sevilla (4:00 PM Eastern) in the first leg of the two-game series. (The second leg goes next Wednesday, August 17.)
This will be the second “Super Cup” on Sevilla’s early season slate. As the Europa League champs, they also earned a place in last week’s UEFA Super Cup against Real Madrid (the Champions League victors). They held a 2-1 lead over a shorthanded Real squad in that one, but surrendered the equalizer late and then the winner in extra time, losing their third UEFA Super Cup in as many years.
It was somewhat surprsing to see Sevilla give up the lead like they did. The team had been rolling throughout its preseason friendlies, winning five straight heading in. New manager Jorge Sampaoli, who previously won the Copa America with Chile in 2015, looked to have his squad in mid-season form.
Now, Sampaoli’s boys will go up against Spain’s other superpower, Barcelona, hoping to prove they can hang with the best that La Liga has to offer and capture the team’s second-ever Spanish Super Cup.
Barcelona, meanwhile, are vying for their record 12th Spanish Super Cup crown. They last captured the title in 2013.
Like arch-rival Real Madrid, Barca won’t be fielding their strongest lineup against Sevilla. Not only is Neymar unavailable due to the Olympics, but starting goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen is out with a knee injury. Chilean Claudio Bravo will start in his place.
During the team’s early season friendlies, the Catalans have shown flashes of what we can expect when the meaningful games roll around. They put up high-scoring wins over Sampdoria (3-2), Leicester (4-2), and Celtic (3-1) in three of their last four. They also suffered an embarrassing 4-0 loss to Liverpool, however.
The recent head-to-head between Barcelona and Sevilla hasn’t been entirely one-sided, but Barcelona have certainly had the better of it, winning four of the last six. Sevilla’s last win was a 2-1 home triumph in 2015. But I expect Sevilla to be the more motivated side in Sunday’s game. Sampaoli will want to see his team continue to progress in his new systems, and the team, as a whole, will want to prove to everyone – in particular themselves – that they’re on par with the country’s top teams.
Pick: Sevilla +1.
Photo Credit: Christopher Johnson (Flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/].