La Liga: Life without Messi proving tough for Barca

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A roundup of Saturday’s action in Spain’s top flight:

Sevilla 2-1 Barcelona

Sevilla, who last year celebrated back-to-back Europa League titles, were always going to turn this around following a slow start (16th in the league entering Saturday) to the 2015-16 La Liga season. What few probably expected, though, was that it would happen this week, against Barcelona.

That’s the world we’re now living in, though, as Barca continue to look not quite themselves without the undisputed best player in the world, Lionel Messi (knee injury – expected to miss 7-8 weeks). Despite holding 63 percent of possession against Sevilla, the Blaugrana fell 2-1 and remained in third in the league (they could fall as far as fourth by the end of the weekend) despite a chance to once again go top.

A quick double from Michael Krohn-Dehli (52nd minute) and Vicente Iborra (58th) fired Sevilla into the lead shortly after halftime. Had it not been for Barcelona’s controversial and extremely fortunate penalty (converted by Neymar in the 74th minute — below video), Luis Enrique’s side would have been held scoreless for the first time since their 4-0 defeat to Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup back in August. On the other end, Barca haven’t kept a clean sheet since they beat Malaga, 1-0 all the way back on Aug. 29.

Up next for Barca are league fixtures against Rayo Vallecano, Eibar and Getafe (all currently ninth in the league or lower), before they face Villarreal (Nov. 8), the current league leaders, and Real Madrid (Nov. 22), for El Clasico round 1. Messi’s eight-week timeframe makes the latter a potential return date, as it sits right at eight weeks from his Sept. 26 injury date.

Elsewhere in La Liga action

Granada 1-1 Deportivo La Coruna
Espanyol 1-2 Sporting Gijon
Las Palmas vs. Eibar (4 p.m. ET)
Malaga vs. Real Sociedad (4:05 p.m. ET)

Sunday’s La Liga schedule

Rayo Vallecano vs. Real Betis (6 a.m. ET)
Athletic Bilbao vs. Valencia (10 a.m. ET)
Levante vs. Villarreal (12:15 a.m. ET)
Atletico Madrid vs. Real Madrid (2:30 p.m. ET)