Here in Spain it's being billed as one of the last remaining obstacles on Barcelonas mission to retain their Liga crown. Normally the Sanchez Pizjuan would be a tough proposition for any team, but Pep Guardiola has never lost in this corner of Andalucia and his side are on an irrepresible run of results away from the Camp Nou which reads Played:13 Won:12 Drawn:1. Even more impressive is the fact that Barca have scored 41 goals on their travels and only conceded 5. Monumental. The only really hope for Gregorio Manzano and his Sevilla outfit is that the effort expended in Barcelonas Champions League clash against Arsenal will mean Messi, Villa, Pedro and co. arrive with heavy legs.
If Sevilla are to pull off a shock home win, they will most likely have to do so without the services of their main hitman, Luis 'El Fabuloso' Fabiano, with the striker seemingly ruled out through injury athough having signed for Sao Paulo this week , perhaps we have already seen Fabiano sport a Sevilla shirt for the last time. The man charged with taking over Fabianos mantle is Alvaro Negredo, who is finally beginning to convince the Sevilla fans of his worth and the striker will be the spearhead of Manzanos 4-2-3-1 formation, with Jesus Navas and Diego Capel providing the width and winter signing Ivan Rakitic pulling the strings just behind Negredo.
For Barcelona the only player to miss out is centre back Carlos Puyol, with Gerard pique returning from a spell on the sidelines to partner Eric Abidal at the back. In midfield and attack Barca have all their ammunition available as Villa, Messi, Pedro, Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets are all set to start. As Pep Guardiola celebrates 1000 days in charge, Barca set upon a run of three away ties that will no doubt shape the outcome of their season. After tonights match they travel to Villarreal before the almighty showdown with Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. If they can maintain their seven point lead before the Clasico, even a Madrid win would surely not be enough to wrest the title away from Catalunya. A win tonight and they have one hand on the trophy.
Sevilla: Javi Varas, Caceres, Navarro, Fazio, Alexis, Medel, Zokora, Rakitic, Navas, Capel and Negredo
Barcelona: Valdés, Alves, Piqué, Abidal, Adriano, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Pedro, Messi and Villa
1.00: Only a minute on the clock and Barca are already on the attack. David Villa and Leo Messi already in the heart of the action. Looks like it'll be a long night for Sevilla.
3.00: Sevilla launch their first attack, but there is Eric Abidal to mop up the danger. The Frenchman has been in superb form lately.
8.00: GOAL DISALLOWED. Stunning free-kick from Leo Messi which curled into Javi Varas' top corner, but the ref saw an infringement by Sergio Buequets in the wall and the goal was chalked off. Not quite sure what went on there!
12.00: Looks like Pedro might be coming off here. The striker is struggling.
14.00: Indeed Pedro has had to make way for Bojan. Early chance for Bojan to show his worth. Sevilla meanwhile just cannot get out of their half.
17.00 Barcelona continue to dominate. Have to say they look more impressive away from home than at the Camp Nou. Perhaps it's the extra space teams afford them. Is that Alvaro Negredo sporting a skull cap?
19.00 Strange to see Frederic Kanoute left out of the starting XI. I can kind of see where Gregorio Manzano is coming from though. Pack the midfield and try to swamp Barca out. Not working at the moment though as Barcelona continue to move the ball in and around the Sevilla box. The home side are playing on the counter here.
23.00 Sevilla get a dangerous free-kick out on the right, Diego Capel whips it in and that looks like a stonewall penalty. Dani Alves pulling back Didier Zokora just when it looked like the Ivorian was going to head in. What is the ref playing at?
25.00 Martin Caceres was booked in the aftermath of that penalty shout. Looks like Alves tripped Zokora accidentally but that's a penalty in my book. Barca let off the hook. Sevilla working there way back into the match after Barcas storming start but the home side are still to test Victor Valdes.
Sevilla 0 - Barcelona 1 (Bojan)
29.00 GOOOOAAAALLLLLL! Bojan puts Barcelona 0-1 up! Fantastic pass from Andres Iniesta and Dani Alves times his run to perfection to collect in the area before unselfishly squaring to Bojan who bundles the ball in despite Martin Caceres' best efforts. Hardly a clinical finish from Bojan but they all count. Advantage Barca.
32.00 Another sensational Iniesta pass sets Leo Messi through on goal but for once the Argentines touch lets him down and Javi Varas collects. Sevilla defence caught flat-footed there.
35.00 This is all too easy for Barcelona at the moment. Sevilla chasing shadows and when they do get the ball they gift it back to Barca. Would be nice to see a bit more adventure from Gregorio Manzanos side.
38.00 Tricky run from Andres Iniesta before slipping in David Villa who fires over. Good chance that for Villa, you'd expect him to hit the target.
40.00 Ex-Sevillista Adriano recieves a yellow for a foul on Diego Capel.
41.00 Victor Valdes punches a cross clear but he's not got much length on that. Luckily for the keeper, Rakitic hits his first time volley high into the sky.
42.00 MESSI HITS CROSSBAR! Majestic pass from Xavi finds Leo Messi who heads over Javi Varas, but he sees the ball bounce back off the bar. That could have been game over before half time.
43.00 Barca win a free-kick just outside the Sevilla area. Leo Messi steps up once again but this time young goalie Javi Varas is on hand to tip the ball around the post. Good keeper is Javi Varas, could be pushing Andres Palop into retirement.
HALF-TIME: Sevilla 0 - 1 Barcelona - Leo Messi has a chance to double Barcas lead just at the end of the half, but once again Javi Varas comes to his sides rescue with a well time block with his right leg. Oh dear, Leo Messi stays down after that challenge and as the ref blows up for half-time the Barca medical staff attend to Messi on the byline with Busquets and Iniesta anxiously looking on. Not a great time for Messi to pick up an injury.
Apart from that Messi injury worry it has been a solid half for Barca. Totally in control and creating chances at will, Sevilla have been restricted to breaking out on the odd counter, but so far Pique and Abidal have been equal to everything Sevilla have thrown at them. The home side can count themselves unfortunate not to have been awarded a penalty as Dani Alves tripped Didier Zokora just when it looked like the midfielder would head in from Capels free-kick.
Will Manzano throw caution to the wind and throw on Frederic Kanoute to partner an isolated Negredo upfront?
45.00 Yes, Manzano has decided to stick two upfront as Frederic Kanoute comes on in the place of Didier Zokora. Let's see what Sevilla are made of.
46.00 I forgot to mention that Leo Messi strolled out after half-time and is fine to carry on. Panic over. Barcelona back on the offensive in search of the all-important second.
Sevilla 1 - 1 Barcelona (Jesus Navas)
48.00 GOAAAAAALLLLLLLL!!!! Jesus Navaaaaaaas!! Alvaro Negredo rampages into the Barca box and despite the close attention of Pique and Abidal, the striker rounds Valdes and just when it looks like he's taken it too far, turns and crosses for Jesus Navas who heads in with aplomb. Cue mayhem in the Sanchez Pizjuan! Sevilla are level.
51.00 What a chance for Negredo to put Sevilla ahead! The striker nicks the ball off Busquets but with just Valdes to beat he fires the ball over the bar. Barca on the backfoot here as the goal has breathed new life into Sevilla.
53.00 Ouch. Nasty tackle from Negredo on Leo Messi. Sevilla are a different side in this second half. We have a match on our hands people!
56.00 I am a huge fan of Frederic Kanoute, such a sikly smooth footballer and he has revolutionised this match. Dropping deep to collect possession and a master in the art of playing with his back to goal, Capel, Navas and Negredo are reaping the rewards of the veteran strikers immaculaute touch.
58.00 Typically winding run from Messi and a cross which just evades David Villa who clashes with Javi Varas. Ref blows for a foul by Villa.
61.00 Bit of handbags between Xavi and Bedel sees both of them shown a yellow card. Childish. Barcelona still havnt qute gotten over that Sevilla equaliser....they look a bit shell-shocked. Sevilla need to take advantage while they can.
64.00 The match is turning a little bit nasty and that is playing right into Sevillas hands as the Sanchez Pizjuan crowd find their voice. That said Barca are getting back on the ball and are beginning to probe once more.
68.00 Oh that was so close to being yet another Leo Messi wonder goal! After nutmegging Fazio, cutting past Caceres and dinking the ball over Javi Varas, Bedel was in the right place at the right time to clear Messis shot off the line and into the grateful arms of Varas. Sensational from Messi.
71.00 It hasn't been David Villas night and he sees another shot sail harmlessly over the bar. Not looking too hot at the moment is Villa.
72.00 Now that is another penalty! Bojan released in the area and Jesus Navas commits a clumsy tackle that gets nowhere near the ball and sends Bojan sprawling on the turf. Two big decisions that ref Perez Lasa has got wrong tonight.
74.00 Jesus Navas nearly gets his second!! A fantastic flick from Negredo sets Perotti flying down the wing and although his low cross is just behind Kanoute it makes its way to Navas who fires against the legs of Victor Valdes. What a chance! In the meantime Adriano is taken off to a warm ovation from the Sevilla fans and Maxwell enters the fray. Just over 15 minutes left for either side to find a winner.
76.00 Now its Frederic Kanoutes turn to miss a glorious opportunity. A cute reverse pass from Navarro sets the electric Diego Perotti free down the right and his cross finds Kanoute who can only fire wide with his first time shot. Sevilla are not backing down here, Barca are suffering.
80.00 This match is turning into a thriller! Both sides are in search of a winner and just after Victor Valdes saves Barca from Frederic Kanoutes venomous shot, Messi is only inches away from connecting with Dani Alves' low cross.
84.00 Iniesta fires against the bar!! Sublime effort from Andres Iniesta which beats Javi Varas all ends up and smacks against the bar and away to safety. So so close! What a player Iniesta is!
88.00 Barca currently swarming all over Sevilla and after another Messi run, Javi Vargas is forced into two point blank saves. Real Madrid fans breathe again.
90.00 We're going to have three minutes of added time. Can Barca find a winner?
FULL TIME: Sevilla 1 - 1 Barcelona
After a first half dominated by the away side, Sevilla came out in the second half all guns blazing and we were treated to a feast of attacking football as both sides went all out for a winner. Bojan got Barcelonas opener on the half hour mark, with Iniesta finding Dani Alves in the area with a sublime pass, with the Brazilian squaring for Bojan to bundle in from close range. Despite the Barca dominance, Guardiolas men couldn't find a second and they were made to pay as Jesus Navas headed in after good work from Alvaro Negredo.
The introduction of Frederic Kanoute for Dider Zokora completely changed the pattern of the match, with once Barcelona only just surviving a tricky spell in the second half. Diego Perotti also enjoyed a productive cameo, with the winger sending over numerous dangerous crosses that Kanoute and Navas couldnt take advantage of.
So Barcelona fail to take three points on the travels for only the second time this season, and after Real Madrids win over Hercules last night, their lead at the top has been cut down to five points. With trips to Villarreal and Real Madrid on the horizon, the Liga race is alive once more.