Sevilla 2-0 Barcelona: Kounde and Blaugrana old boy Rakitic secure Copa advantage

By Sports Desk February 10, 2021

Barcelona have it all to do in their Copa del Rey semi-final after Jules Kounde and former Blaugrana midfielder Ivan Rakitic secured Sevilla a 2-0 win in Wednesday's first leg at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

The Copa remains Barca's most realistic chance of silverware this term, and Ronald Koeman's first trophy at the helm, but they will have to do it the hard way after slipping to their first defeat in 90 minutes since December 8, a run of 16 matches across all competitions.

Kounde got the first goal with 25 minute played, the 22-year-old centre-back charging forward to great effect a few moments after going close from just outside the box.

Barca dominated most of the second half with Sevilla seemingly happy to play on the counter, but the visitors could not breach Yassine Bounou's goal and Rakitic finished them off on the break as Julen Lopetegui's side made it seven wins on the bounce.

 

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    Xavi has insisted Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland were never realistic targets for Barcelona, though he is confident he will have money to invest in the squad. 

    Barca wrap up what has been a turbulent season against Villarreal on Sunday. 

    The Blaugrana will finish second in LaLiga, a testament to the work done by Xavi since he replaced the much-maligned Ronald Koeman earlier in the campaign. 

    However, they were knocked out of the Champions League in the group stage and fell to a defeat to eventual winners Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League quarter-finals, while there was no success in the Copa del Rey either. 

    The 2021-22 season came on the back of Lionel Messi's shock departure, as Barca grappled with financial issues that saw the superstar leave for Paris Saint-Germain. 

    Ferran Torres, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Adama Traore arrived to bolster the squad in January, though the latter two were on a free transfer and a loan respectively. 

    Barca were linked with moves for Mbappe and Haaland. However, Mbappe is weighing up offers from Paris Saint-Germain and Real Madrid while Haaland is joining Manchester City, and Xavi has claimed there was never any chance of the Blaugrana having the financial capability to sign such players. 

    "Ask me another question," he told a news conference on Saturday. "Mbappe, let him do what he wants, let him be happy.  

    "We do not enter into this equation. I do not understand the question. 

    "We cannot put a lot of money in. The economic situation is what it is. We did not enter the bidding of Haaland or Mbappe but that is what we have inherited. 

    "There is no need to look back. You have to carry on. We have to compete and win titles again, we need to be competitive from now on. 

    "The president transmits confidence to me and that we will be able to invest in our squad. We have made a plan and we will try to execute it.  

    "The economic situation is serious but it is not my turn to talk about money. I'm here to talk about football. The economic problems are what they are, but let's talk about football." 

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    No player across Europe's top five leagues has scored more goals than the Poland striker this season, but he has told Bayern he wishes to leave and will not be signing a new contract, with his deal ending in June 2023. 

    However, LaLiga president Javier Tebas on Friday cast doubt on Barca's ability to be able to afford the 34-year-old. 

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    "There are some negotiations involved. It will not be easy with Bayern involved." 

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    However, Xavi has reinvigorated Barca as the Catalan giants have climbed up to second in the league, albeit 13 points behind champions Real Madrid with one game left to play.

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    "We have saved a situation that could have been worse," he told reporters at a pre-match news conference on Saturday. "We have gone from less to more. We have competed but it has not given us any reward. We have to win titles. 

    "I don't give myself a grade because whatever is said will be criticised. We have improved a lot. I am the first to demand more from myself. From now on, we will look to improve further.

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    The game against Villarreal could prove to be Dembele's last at Camp Nou as contract negotiations remain ongoing.

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    Barca have won their last five games against Villarreal in LaLiga, and could register six wins in a row against them for the first time in the competition.

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    "The result will be important. I would like to see a team with good feelings, bravery and finish with the best feelings," he continued.

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