Barca facing weight of expectations

Barcelona's Philippe Coutinho (right, with Lionel Messi) says the most important thing is to think about how they have to play and what they should do to win today.
Barcelona's Philippe Coutinho (right, with Lionel Messi) says the most important thing is to think about how they have to play and what they should do to win today.PHOTO: REUTERS

MADRID • The King's Cup would certainly have been third on Barcelona's list of priorities only a month ago, but the shattering Champions League defeat by Roma has altered perceptions of what might have otherwise been a stellar campaign.

Unbeaten in LaLiga and virtually certain to win the title, Barca might find that a domestic double is not enough to remove the lingering disappointment - particularly if arch-rivals Real Madrid clinch their third consecutive Champions League crown - but fans will demand nothing less.

And Barca midfielder Philippe Coutinho understands the weight of expectations ahead of today's final against Sevilla.

"I live with a little anxiety," the Brazilian said on Thursday. "But it is a very important moment.

"The most important thing is to think about how we have to play and what we should do to win."

Another surprise loss this weekend would certainly settle the argument, even if it seems strange to declare a team under pressure six days after they marked the longest unbeaten run in Spanish league history at 40 matches against Celta Vigo on Wednesday .

For Sevilla - 17 points adrift of the top four and the likelihood of no Champions League next season - the trophy would make up for their poor league form. Lose, and there will be little left to cling onto.

"We have a great opportunity to win a title for the club," Sevilla midfielder Pablo Sarabia said.

"We have to think about the good things (making it to the last eight of the Champions League) from this season."

Barca fans are expected to jeer Spain's national anthem under the backdrop of ongoing political unrest between Catalonia and the Spanish government, but manager Ernesto Valverde opted to keep mum on the tension.

"I'm not going to say anything," Valverde said. "I just want the players to respect each other."

Defending champions Barca are chasing their 30th Cup triumph while Sevilla are bidding to win their sixth, and first since 2010.

AGENCE-FRANCE PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 21, 2018, with the headline 'Barca facing weight of expectations'. Print Edition | Subscribe