Barca missed a string of chances against a dogged Sevilla at Camp Nou before the 19-year-old Pedri settled the contest with a moment of magic, dancing his way into space on the edge of the area before firing into the corner. Victory continues Barcelona’s recent surge as they backed up their 4-0 thrashing of Real Madrid before the international break with a convincing win against the team who have been Madrid’s chief title challengers all season.
Madrid edged past Celta Vigo on Saturday to calm suggestions their Clasico nightmare could even prompt a late collapse and let Barca back into the race. A 12-point advantage means that is surely impossible now but Barcelona are in the driving seat to finish second, which would be a remarkable achievement for a team that only a few months ago had serious concerns about missing out on the top four. When Xavi took over in November, they lay ninth.
The last time the Catalans were second in La Liga after a complete round of fixtures was May 10 last year, three matches before the end of last season. Ousmane Dembele delivered another excellent to display to enhance the growing the sense that the Frenchman might yet stay in the summer, even if the club remain pessimistic. Pedri, though, was the star of the show, a stunning performance in midfield rounded off with a masterful goal that will only further the reputation of one of the world’s most exciting young talents.
Sevilla, meanwhile, continue to fizzle, have drawn seven out of their previous nine games before this defeat made it two wins from 10. Add the surprise exit in the Europa League at the hands of West Ham and Julen Lopetegui’s side are in danger of enduring a miserable end to what looked a promising season.
Barcelona were the more assertive team in the first half but it was only in the last 10 minutes that Sevilla were made to feel uncomfortable as a flurry of chances went begging. A sumptuous Pedri pass released Dembele out on the right but his attempted cut-back was intercepted. Then Pedri picked out Dembele again, this time with a clipped cross into the area and while Dembele nodded smartly across the six-yard box, neither Ferran Torres nor Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could convert.