Barcelona v Sevilla - as it happened

Barcelona brilliantly swatted aside Sevilla, with Lionel Messi and David Villa in stunning form

Evening. Even the greatest empires crumble eventually. Why, in the 70s and the 80s, eminent historians will be fully aware that Liverpool were the dominant force in English football, but a little-known fact is that they haven't won a league title since 1990, after which the rot, or Graeme Souness, set in. Similar happened to Manchester United, on a smaller scale, at the turn of the century, when after three years on the top of the pile, Sir Alex Ferguson's second great side went into terminal decline. Various contributing factors are relevant here; bad signings, ageing players, a manager who loses the plot or sometimes the squad simply losing its hunger.

That's what happened to Barcelona after they won the Champions League in 2006, having also won La Liga for two consecutive seasons. They were a great side, with Ronaldinho in his flamboyant pomp, Deco and Xavi pulling the strings and Samuel Eto'o, as he is for Inter to be fair, scoring goals with a ferocious intensity. But after that, things went to pot. Ronaldinho was a little too hungry, Eto'o's attitude slipped and Lionel Messi was injured too often, thereby allowing a distinctly mediocre Real Madrid to pip them to two league titles.

Incredibly, the current Barcelona side is even better than the 2006 version; disconcertingly for them, this Real Madrid squad is also markedly superior to the shambles that masqueraded as champions back then. For the last two years, Barcelona have been the team to watch: fluent and mysterious in equal measure, with the exquisite partnership of Xavi and Andres Iniesta supporting the sublime skills of Messi in attack. True, they might not have won the Champions League last year, but it took a super-human effort from Jose Mourinho's Inter to stop them. And that's the almighty obstacle standing in their way this season: Mourinho. Mourinho's Madrid. So far this season, Barcelona have looked tired, as if they're feeling the pressure of a genuine challenge from the capital and the task of maintaining their own high standards. David Villa, their big summer signing, hasn't quite found his groove, Xavi is suffering from fatigue, they missed out on signing Cesc Fabregas from Arsenal and the side has been overly reliant on Messi in front of goal. To this observer, Mourinho and Cristiano Ronaldo seem to be a match made in heaven. We know all good things must come to an end. It would just be a shame if it happened to football's feel-good team.

Team news:
Barcelona (4-3-3, although it will probably end up 3-4-3 at most points): Valdes; Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal; Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta; Messi, Villa, Pedro. Subs: Pinto, Adriano, Mascherano, Keita, Bojan, Thiago, Maxwell.

Sevilla (9-0-1 4-4-2): Javi Varas; Konko, Cáceres, Alexis, Luna; Perotti, Romaric, Renato, Capel; Kanoute, Luis Fabiano. Subs: Dani Jimenez, Cigarini, Escude, Dabo, Alfaro, Jose Carlos, Negredo.

It's like 2004, Porto and Old Trafford all over again. Well, sort of. Jose Mourinho has been jumping up and down like a crazy person because two late goals from Cristiano Ronaldo has given Real Madrid a 3-1 win away to Hercules and ensure they stay top of the league, no matter what Barcelona do here.

Sevilla took a right spanking here last season: 4-0, it was. And then again in the Spanish Super Cup in August, although they did win the first leg 3-1 at home.

Xavi Hernandez is the new Ledley King. I've been waiting to write that sentence for years. Like the Tottenham captain, the Spanish maestro has an injury which means he has to pick and choose his games these days, which is a monumental shame.

The teams are out. The melodic Barcelona anthem drifts out across Camp Nou. I whistle it a fair bit at home. Lovely tune.

1 min: Barcelona kick off, kicking from left to right. Pique and Puyol immediately set the tone for the rest of the evening, idly stroking the ball around at the back. And immediately Barcelona threaten! Villa slips Messi in behind the Sevilla defence. Messi gets to the byline and clips the ball back, Sevilla clearing it without much conviction. Abidal picks the ball up and rolls it to Xavi, in space on the edge of the area, and his fierce, swerving strike whistles a yard wide of Varas's far post.

3 min: Barcelona have started this one with a spring in their step, and are encamped in Sevilla's half. Sevilla can barely get move the ball further than 40 yards from their own goal. The pressing this team does is astounding.

GOAL! Barcelona 1-0 Sevilla (Messi 4 min) This is about as one-sided a start to a match I've ever seen. Sevilla have barely touched the ball and the intense pressure has told. Villa spun on the edge of the area and hit a snapshot that was blocked by Caceres. The ball ran to Pedro on the left, who showed a fine turn of pace to get past Konko on the left. He chipped a cross towards Villa at the far post and Varas came off his line, all-a-flap to deal with it. His palm out only came to Messi, who took a touch and promptly drilled a hard shot through the bodies and underneath the goalkeeper.

6 min: And breathe. This one should have a few goals in it.

8 min: Sevilla still haven't mustered an attack. Tiki-taka is the order of the day so far. Barca are a different side when Xavi is fit and present.

9 min: Sevilla get into Barcelona's half! And what do you know, they nearly equalise! Konko glides inside and coaxes an intelligent pass behind the Barcelona defence. Pique lunges it but doesn't get enough on it to stop the pass reaching Luis Fabiano, who has darted away from Puyol to the right of the area. Fabiano shoots first time, past the dive of Valdes, but his effort skims a few inches wide. That was a good move, and deserved more.

11 min: Messi wins a corner for Barcelona on the left. Xavi takes it but it's headed away by Konko at the near post.

12 min: The workrate of Barcelona is quite remarkable and an object lesson for lesser sides who don't always put the hard yards in. More or less every time Sevilla try to play their way out of defence, they are eventually frustrated by a Barcelona interception. This sort of pressure puts an extraordinary strain on a defence.

14 min: All that said, Sevilla have at least managed to contain Barcelona better than they did in the first five minutes. Barcelona haven't had a shot since the goal. Fabiano is caught just offside on the right flank as he tried to latch on to another pass by Konko, Pique stepping up just in time, like a Spanish Tony Adams. Without the poetry and self-examination.

16 min: Teams must feel like the pitch is slanted towards their goal when they play against Barcelona. This game is being played more or less exclusively in Sevilla's half, sometimes 30 yards from their own goal. Busquets, ostensibly Barcelona's defensive midfielder, has made so many interceptions high up the pitch.

17 min: Barcelona have had 77% of the possession. So, for a shiny penny, how much have Sevilla had?

18 min: Wonderful interplay between Xavi and Abidal sets up a chance for Messi on the edge of the box, but Caceres halts his burst into the area. Inevitably Barcelona take control again and then, as you do, the supreme Xavi scoops a backheel to David Villa on the right of the area. He cuts inside, on to his left foot, but aims his shot too close to Varas, who holds well.

21 min: "Sevilla are an interesting story as well," begins John McLauchlin. "Their president has been in the news recently as he tries to wrangle a better TV deal from the big two in Spain. Although the club have always been setup to make a profit from player sales, a better TV deal and UEFA's financial fair play could change that. If even a few of the players (Keita, Ramos, Alves, Reyes etc) sold over the last few years had stayed on, they could have been challenging for the league." You're not wrong there, John, they were a very entertaining team to watch between 2005 and 2007. In fact, they've not been bad since then, but they were particularly good during that period. Kanoute is booked for asking for a yellow card for Xavi's scythe on Diego Capel.

23 min: Sevilla threaten again, and this would have been a superb way to bring the match level. Perotti darts down the right flank, holding off Abidal, before hoicking a dangerous cross all the way to the far post, over the snoozing head of Dani Alves. Capel meets it on the volley, but it's straight at Valdes.

SENSATIONAL GOAL! Barcelona 2-0 Sevilla (Villa 24 min) Just inside Sevilla's half, Messi suddenly jinks away from Romaric and Fabiano. They might as well not be there, for all he cares. Suddenly expectation rises, he's running at the Sevilla defence. Instead of going for goal himself, he moves the ball over to Villa just to the right of the area. He glides inside past Luna, looks up, thinks 'I fancy some of this' and sends a sumptuous left-footed curler past the despairing dive of Varas and into the top corner from an absurd angle. Just superb.

26 min: This could get ugly for Sevilla, but they definitely have a goal or two in them. Barcelona, though, look like they have six or seven in them.

28 min: From a Sevilla goal-kick, Barcelona win possession and Pedro finds himself up against another wheezing Sevilla defender. He tries to twist his way past him on the left, but eventually Renato concedes a corner...

29 min: Some nonsense in the area between Alexis and Puyol ends with both players being booked. There didn't seem to be too much going on there. Eventually Xavi whips the corner in, and it's headed away easily enough. All that wait for that.

30 min: "Messi, what is he?" asks Niall Mullen. "Striker or winger? Or a ridiculously gifted combination of both? A Stringer perhaps? Either way it's all in the game." A glorious amalgamation of both, I'd say. It goes without saying that he's got the lot. Not very tall though - how would he do on a wet and windy Tuesday night away to Stoke? Let's see him defend a Delap throw-in, yeah? Withstand a Shawcross reducer.

32 min:Kanoute wants to be careful here. Already booked, he chops down Busquets, but escapes a second yellow.

33 min: The dangerous Pedro occupies two Sevilla defenders on the left, before firing a low cross in towards Xavi in the six-yard box. Xavi can't turn it goalwards though, Alexis putting it behind for a corner, which comes to nothing.

34 min: Messi finds space where there is none on the edge of the area. Eventually the ball just squirts away from him, but Iniesta wins a challenge with Renato 25 yards out, deflecting the ball back into Messi's path. He seemed a little surprised to have the ball again so quickly, maybe not realising that he had a bit of time, because his shot was a little rushed and went a few yards over the bar.

36 min: Romaric has a couple of nibbles at Xavi's achilles. Cynical? Xavi has been struggling with an achilles injury all season.

37 min: A great ball from Capel from the left has Fabiano interested, but Abidal just about manages to put him off, stopping him from getting a header on goal. Fortunately for Barcelona, the ball drops straight to Puyol rather than a Sevilla attacker and he clears. But Sevilla have looked dangerous every so often.

39 min: This has been a triumph for workrate. Not the blood and guts kind, merely diligent, intelligent harrying.

40 min: Varas preserves what little is left of Sevilla's dignity. Villa accepts a pass from Messi, before producing a great dragback away from Luna. From the right of the area, he aims a low effort towards the bottom corner, only to be denied by a superlative, sprawling save from Varas, who fingertips wide.

42 min: Konko clatters into Busquets and is booked for his troubles. Barcelona have a free-kick in the centre, 25 yards from Sevilla's goal.

43 min: Villa sends a disappointing effort straight into the wall.

44 min: Messi nearly plays in Xavi, but his pass is a tad strong and runs out for a goal-kick.

45 min: RED CARD FOR KONKO! Villa's brilliant, searching pass from the halfway line on the right to the left of the Sevilla's area is collected by Pedro. With Konko in close attendance, Pedro swiftly pokes the ball through his legs and is brought down by the right-back. The referee brandishes a second yellow card, and Konko can have no arguments with that decision. What was already going to be a long night for Sevilla has just got that bit longer.

Half-time: Barcelona 2-0 Sevilla. The champions are on easy street.

46 min: Didier Zokora has come on for Perotti, and Dabo is on for Luis Fabiano. So, damage limitation for Sevilla then. Really, they've just got to hope that Barcelona get bored. This comes to mind.

47 min: "When you're 2-0 down," begins Gerry Armstrong on Sky, " I'd rather lose 3-0 or 4-0." Right you are.

48 min: "I agree Messi wouldn't like a midweek reducer fest up north," says Niall Mullen. "Mind you some of the things he does with the ball, if an English player did them you would be hearing about it for weeks." Yeah, how many England caps has Messi got? Villa and Alves play a clever one-two on the edge of the Sevilla area, the former managing to get a shot on target which is straight at Varas.

49 min: A waste from Messi here. We always knew he was rubbish. Xavi plays a lovely pass with the outside of his right boot to Messi on the right. He brings the ball forward and has two options, Villa or Pedro. He tries to find Pedro, but plays a strange pass, nowhere near his team-mate and it goes out for a goal-kick.

51 min: Barcelona are playing at walking pace at the moment, perhaps with one eye on the Champions League during the week. Xavi tries to find Messi with a cross, but it's too long.

SHAMBLES! Barcelona 3-0 Sevilla (Alves 53 min) Iniesta's attempted pass inside Luna towards Alves is headed away by the left-back. Thirty yards out and facing his own goal, Romaric tries to head the ball all the way back to Varas but drops his header way too short and Alves shows great anticipation to get there first, sticking out a leg to loop the ball over the goalkeeper and into the net. What a farcical goal.

54 min: Nearly a fourth goal for Barcelona, but Varas denies Messi's close-range effort with his knees. The rebound comes back to Iniesta, who tries to curl it into the far corner but Romaric gets in the way.

56 min: The flag incorrectly goes up for offside against Alves after another awesome pass by Xavi. He really is some player.

57 min: "So we're agreed," says my co-commentator, Niall Mullen. "Leo Messi: he's no Tony Daley." Iniesta effortlessly wriggles away from Dabo on the left but rather than producing a cross, he runs the ball out of play. He can probably be forgiven for that.

58 min: One minute he's showing you the ball, tempting you, daring you to try and nick it off him. Then quick as you like, Messi whips it away from the defender and suddenly he's gone, that brief burst of acceleration always proving the difference. He passes to Villa on the right, but his cross is poor.

60 min: Alves goes down in the area under a challenge from Capel. He wants a penalty but that would have been soft. Barcelona make their first changes, Bojan and Javier Mascherano replacing Pedro and the excellent Xavi.

61 min: This one's basically over, but then we knew that after four minutes. Thirty minutes of exhibition stuff from Barcelona coming up.

62 min: Sevilla enjoy a bit of possession, but they're only going in one direction: all the way back to Varas. This is a thankless task for the visitors.

63 min: I've never seen a player clutch his face as much as Busquets. This time it's probably justified as Romaric's flailing arm catches him, but still.

GOAL! Barcelona 4-0 Sevilla (Messi 64 min) Another brilliant goal. Messi shows great strength to barge Capel off the ball 40 yards from goal and then he puts the afterburners on, sprinting away from every desperate challenge. The Sevilla defence go this way and that, completely unaware of which way Messi is going to go, nearly tripping over their own feet, such is his instant change of direction. He hurtles to the left, opening up the angle for the shot, and from 20 yards out he places an unstoppable low skimmer into the bottom corner.

66 min: Puyol gets a nice little rest, the former Sevilla player, Adriano, on in his place. He'll go to left-back, meaning that Barcelona have two former Sevilla players in the full-back positions. Abidal slots into the centre.

67 min: Villa clips a cross back towards Messi on the edge of the area, forcing Zokora to head out for a corner.

69 min: Kanoute's night is over, here comes Alvaro Negredo.

70 min: "To answer the question raised in min 30, Messi is a striker; he hasn't played on the wing for the last season or so," says Jonathan Francis. "His increased goal rate is a direct result of him playing as a central striker, and I'd argue it's also why Ronaldo's ratio in Spain should be considered more impressive."

71 min: Is it a compliment to point out La Liga is an upmarket version of the Scottish Premier League?

72 min: It's an interesting concept actually. In Spain, we know only Barcelona or Real Madrid can win the title, while the teams immediately below them are relegated to the status of also-rans before a ball is kicked. In England, it's more or less certain that Chelsea are going to win the league, but their rivals (Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United and Tottenham) are arguably all better than the teams fighting for a Champions League place in Spain. Which is better? Probably the variety in the German league, as it goes.

75 min: I haven't paid too much attention to the last five minutes. Not much is going on, to be honest. We're playing out time, Barcelona might get a couple more goals, but they don't look particularly bothered either way now.

76 min: A rare foray forward from Sevilla ends with Negredo firing past the near post and into the side netting, via a deflection off Mascherano. The corner comes to nothing.

77 min: Fine play by Bojan as he holds off a number off Sevilla challenges, eventually winning a corner on the right.

78 min: Rather than whip the corner into the box, Barcelona decide to play keep-ball a bit more, just for the sheer hell of it. Then: pass, pass, pass, pass, pass, pass. Passy, passity, pass. Suddenly Iniesta seizes the initiative, gliding into the Sevilla area. He opens up his body and it looks like he's about to stroke the ball into the far corner, but he shows a rare moment of indecision, going for the perfect goal and his prod to Messi is cut out by a Sevilla interception.

80 min: Villa gets in behind the Sevilla defence again, this time from Messi's through ball. Varas comes out to meet him, but lovely quick feet from Villa help him to skip past the goalkeeper. The angle's tight but the shot is on target and would have gone in but for the covering of Dabo, who slid back to clear the ball off the line.

82 min: A first glimpse of Adriano, released by Messi on the left. But with space to deliver a cross, he gets the execution all wrong with Villa all along in the middle of the area, shanking the ball to Varas, who catches it.

84 min: Barcelona are toying with Sevilla, like a cat flicking a helpless mouse about.

86 min: Iniesta spanks a cross from the left towards Alves at the far post. Alves goes for the spectacular, trying to score with a difficult volley, but he's no Paolo Di Canio. Alves isn't really a right-back, is he?

87 min: Messi is after his hat-trick and is inches away from latching on to a long, raking pass from Alves. It just skipped away from him though.

88 min: Sevilla's night gets worse as Luna takes a cross from Alves plum in the face. That's got to smart.

GOAL! Barcelona 5-0 Sevilla (Villa 90 min) Sevilla just can't live with the touch and movement of Barcelona. Who can? On the right touchline, Messi rolls a superb pass inside Luna towards Busquets. Busquets darts into the area before touching the ball back to Villa on the edge of the area, and he produces an exact replica of Messi's second goal.

Peep! Peep! Peep! That was breathtaking from Barcelona.

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