A night at the Camp Nou that confirmed that Sevilla’s title challenge was all but over and that they’d been well and truly dragged into a scrap for top four. Barcelona knew exactly what Sevilla would put out to try to disrupt their rich vein of form: a typical compact defensive structure. As such, the Blaugrana began the game largely dominant yet unable to produce anything of note. The chief provider was Ousmane Dembélé, who had been evidently instructed to threaten the Sevilla low-block with a string of crosses. Ferran Torres cut in regularly from the left, but neither winger was able to leave a decisive imprint early on.
Sevilla settled into the game rather well, and as half-time neared, the visitors enjoyed their own share of control. Although neither side had particularly threatened the opposing goalkeeper – indeed, the game’s first shot on target came as late as the 39th minute – the overwhelming feeling was that Sevilla had coped well with Barça’s initial pressure and had begun to hold their own.
The second half saw the game open up considerably, with a clear pattern of proceedings: Barcelona, dominating possession, looked to breach Sevilla’s solidity, while the visitors attempted to pounce on the counter. The latter almost worked; Lucas Ocampos, unmarked, narrowly missed Navas’ cross in the 56th minute.
One man whose influence on the game was only getting bigger was Pedri. The diminutive youngster was pulling the strings in creative midfield and gave us a little teaser in the 50th minute. He danced past three Sevilla defenders before his cut-back was blocked. 22 minutes later, however, Pedri left his mark with a moment of exceptional brilliance. Feinting past the diving challenges of Rakitić and Diego Carlos, Pedri arrowed in from near the Sevilla area past Yassine Bono’s reach. The Moroccan goalkeeper had kept Barça at bay a number of times, but Pedri’s excellence was one time too many. At 19, Pedri is fast elevating from the status of ‘Best Young Player’ to really one of the best players in the world outright.
Ronald Araújo and Gerard Piqué had expertly kept the Sevilla offence silent throughout, but Piqué lunged to prevent a late Sevilla counter. The Spaniard got away with a yellow, but complaints saw Sevilla manager Julen Lopetegui sent off subsequently.
Ousmane Dembélé was given a standing ovation from the Camp Nou; an incredible turn of events just weeks after being heavily booed following his renewal disagreements. The Frenchman has earned his redemption, being a tireless outlet on the right flank all evening. No less than 15 attempted crosses, one of which earned him his tenth assist of the season, leaving him one behind league leader Karim Benzema on the tally.
Barcelona, with the help of Pedri’s moment of magic, overcame the growing sense of déjà vu that perhaps, just like in their previous league game against Sevilla, their prolonged domination wouldn’t lead to a winner. This time around, Xavi’s Barcelona is more refined, more exciting and more decisive, notching up their sixth league win on the trot. LaLiga now finds itself in more familiar circumstances, as it is Real Madrid and Barcelona who occupy the top two spots yet again. With a game in hand to their nearest rivals, perhaps even an unprecedented sniff of the title is being smelt around Camp Nou.