By Peter Auf der Heyde
Following their defeat against PSG in Champion’s League, Lionel Messi’s Barcelona are under pressure.
Barcelona will need victories against Sevilla that they meet twice in less than a week, in La Liga and in the Copa del Rey.
Ronald Koeman and his Barcelona team are under pressure. Lots of it.
A 4-1 home defeat against PSG in the Champions League first leg in the round of the last 32 and third in La Liga – five points behind Atletico Madrid, who have played a game less, are not what their fans expect from the team.
The Blaugrana are now facing Sevilla twice in the space of five days in two matches that could give a pointer what direction their season will be taking.
On Saturday they travel to Andalusia for a La Liga clash against the fourth-placed Sevilla, who would overtake their opponents in the table with a victory in the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium.
Like Barcelona, Julen Lopetegui’s team also slumped to a home defeat in the Champions League and will probably be needing domestic competitions to pick up a trophy.
On Wednesday the two teams meet again, but this time in the Camp Nou for the return leg of the semi-final in the Copa del Rey. Goals by Jules Olivier Koundé and Ivan Rakitić gave Sevilla a 2-0 win in the first leg.
Croatian midfielder Rakitić joined Sevilla from Barcelona at the start of the season after being told that he was surplus to requirements at the Camp Nou.
The result upped the pressure on Koeman to turn things around and the Dutchman will be looking for an improvement from his side in both games against Sevilla. He said he expected his experienced players to step up their game. “It’s time for the team to recover pride and energy, above all those that have been here for many years.
“Recent results against PSG and Sevilla have done damage but we have to move forward. It’s a moment when the captains and more experienced players have to create an atmosphere to go for everything.”
The other semi-final tie between Athletic Bilbao and Levante is evenly poised after the two teams drew 1-1 in the first leg game in Bilbao.
Barcelona’s biggest rival in Spain, Real Madrid, were stunned by third division club Alcoyano in the round of the last 32 and can concentrate on other matters – like the La Liga.
Like Barcelona, Real having been blowing hot and cold this season. They are three points behind city rivals Atletico and have also played a game more than the table-toppers.
They are at home to Real Sociedad on Monday in a game they need to win if they want to keep the pressure on Atletico in the title race. Los Blancos secured a morale-boosting 1-0 victory at Atalanta in the Champions League on Thursday and will fancy their chances against Imanol Alguacil’s side.
All the matches will be shown live and in HD for Zambian football fans on TopStar’s sports channels both the Copa del Rey and La Liga.