Barcelona visited Sevilla in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarter-final, and they suffered a 2-0 defeat at the Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium.
Ernesto Valverde rested a host of key players, whereas counterpart Pablo Machin put out a considerably strong outfit. The difference was visible, but either side failed to break the deadlock in the first half. Pablo Sarabia changed that in the second half when he rifled home from Quincy Promes' cross. Substitute Wissam Ben Yedder doubled Sevilla's lead when he slid in at the far post to poke Ever Banega's cross.
Barcelona brought reinforcements from the bench, but it was to no effect. the home crowd was raucous, and Sevilla rewarded them with an impressive win. They will now head to the Camp Nou with a 2-0 lead to defend, which will give them considerable breathing space. The second leg is in seven days' time.
It was a compelling game in the Copa del Rey, and here are the major talking points from the contest.
#5 Valverde's team selection backfires on Barcelona
Ernesto Valverde's starting eleven against Sevilla was nowhere near his strongest lineup. Ousmane Dembele suffered a knee injury in the last game, which sidelined him. Lionel Messi and Sergio Busquets were not even in the squad. Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho, and Jordi Alba made the squad, but they started the game on the bench.
Inexperienced players like Carles Alena and Malcom had to shoulder the responsibility, and they could not do it ably. Alena particularly was played out of position in the front three and did not perform well. Kevin-Prince Boateng made his debut, and he will take time to get used to things.
In the last round, Valverde did something similar. He lost in the first leg at Levante but played a strong team in the second leg to progress. Something similar would have been in his mind, but his team was arguably too weak. Sevilla are a commendable outfit, and they exploited the inferior Barca side to great effect. Maybe they will still overturn the deficit, but it is by no means a certainty.