Three points to ponder: Why Barcelona lost 2-1 in Sevilla

Barcelona was always going to find the match at the Sanchez Pizjuan against Sevilla very difficult. A win could have pushed the Catalans to the top of the table if combined with a Villarreal loss on Sunday. In the two sides’ first meeting in August in the European Super Cup, Barcelona came out of a goal-bonanza 5-4 winners, but without Lionel Messi, Rafinha and Andres Iniesta and Sevilla being without Beto, Banega and a few more, this was expected to be a much different affair.

Ultimately, it was a stout defensive effort from Sevilla that proved to be the difference in Barcelona’s first loss at the Sanchez Pizjuan since 2007.

Here are three talking points from Barcelona’s loss to Sevilla:

Sevilla were far more desperate for the win

To claim the La Liga title and see off the challenge of Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, a full campaign of few slip-ups is required. Sitting atop the table during the international break could have been a message to the rest of the league that even shorthanded and stripped to their bare bones, Barcelona could still sit on top.

Yet, after taking a second glance at the table, Sevilla appears to be the one who needed the win more. Playing at home and sitting near the relegation zone, Unai Emery and company needed to play their best game of the season, and that’s basically what they did. 

Kevin Gameiro, who has been criticized by his own supporters this season, worked hard and was efficient with his opportunities. Michael Krohn-Dehli deserved both his goal and his assist. Most importantly for Sevilla, their back-line and, particularly, the new Spanish team call-up Sergio Rico in net pulled off a number of miraculous saves throughout the game, especially in the second half, to deny Barcelona the goals that they deserved.

Luis Enrique's emergency formation

Without Messi on the right and cutting into the middle, Luis Enrique showed the way he wanted his injury-depleted squad to play. Build through the back as they always do, with Sergio Busquets getting farther forward than Javier Mascherano and Ivan Rakitic serving as the primary link from defense to attack. 

The key however, was Neymar playing more in the center of the field. While often receiving the ball on his favored left wing, the Brazilian forward consistently cut inside to try something either for himself or a teammate. This method started clicking with greater effect when Barcelona started pressing for the equalizer in the second half. 

Having Sergio Roberto pushing further up as an extra midfielder and with Dani Alves coming up the wing in the second half, fans saw a much better display of what a Messi/Iniesta-less Barcelona attack could look like. 

The only thing that didn’t work was the final ball into the back of the net -- which is ultimately the crucial factor in football.

Far too many wasted opportunities

It’s always a polarizing argument after a loss. Did the offense not do enough or was the defense too weak? Often, it’s a whole lot of both. While they did hit the crossbar three times, the Blaugrana also had nine shots on goal, five coming from Neymar and only two from Luis Suarez. Unfortunately, the Uruguayan striker didn’t get the clean looks he is accustomed to throughout the match and found it tough to make his mark on the game.

It was a tale of two halves for Luis Enrique’s men. With Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano manning the middle of the park, Barcelona spent much of the first half absorbing Sevilla’s offensive attacks and counter-attacking through Neymar, Munir El Haddadi and Rakitic to hopefully find Suarez. 

The second half saw a change after the second Sevilla goal was scored. Neymar still dropped much deeper than he usually does to receive the ball, but Barcelona was much more direct and forced three game-saving stops from Sergio Rico or they certainly would have been back into the game earlier.

In his postgame comments, missed chances were the one thing that Luis Enrique focused on. With Messi out, of course Neymar and Suarez will be expected to score with Rakitic helping out, but fans are still waiting for Sandro or Munir to get on the score-sheet. 

Munir has collected some assists from his position on the wing, but missed opportunities from every player in the red and blue will be the lasting impression from this contest -- while also leaving Cules wondering whether Munir or Sandro have enough quality to make an impact in La Liga.

By Dan Hilton, columnist at Barcablog. Follow him on Twitter @HiltonD13

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