MADRID, Spain, February 24 – Barcelona stretched their advantage at the top of La Liga to 15 points as two goals in eight minutes just before the hour mark from David Villa and Lionel Messi handed them a 2-1 win over Sevilla on Saturday.
The Catalans, who slumped to a shock Champions League loss at AC Milan in midweek, had to come from behind after Alberto Botia headed the visitors into a 42nd minute lead.
Barca star Javier Mascherano said it was important to get the equaliser quickly after the break.
“I think we were aware that we didn’t pay well in the first-half and we needed more,” he told Canal Plus.
“In the second-half I think we started with more intensity and luckily managed to find the equaliser quickly.”
Barca now face a huge Spanish Cup semi-final second-leg with Real Madrid on Tuesday with the tie finely balanced a 1-1 and Mascherano believes home advantage and an away goal gives them the upper hand.
“On Tuesday we have a big game but we have the advantage. We are playing a great rival but we need to finish the job.”
Barca faced much the same challenge as in their 2-0 defeat to AC Milan as they struggled to find a way through a packed Sevilla defence early on.
Messi had a low drive well-saved by Beto and also saw a free-kick drift over but Barca were stunned when the visitors took the lead with their first serious attack on the stroke of half-time.
A free-kick was played out to Coke on the right and his cross was headed beyond Victor Valdes by former Barca defender Botia.
The half-time scoreline forced Jordi Roura to introduce Cristian Tello for Alexis Sanchez and the Spanish Under-21 international was to have quite an impact as Barca turned the game around.
It was from the other side of the pitch though that they found the equaliser as Dani Alves’ perfect cross was headed home by David Villa seven minutes into the second period.
And Messi completed the turnaround as he scored for the 15th consecutive league game as he turned in Tello’s intelligent cut-back eight minutes later.
Sevilla still had their chances to take something from the game though as Ivan Rakitic pulled a shot just wide before Alvaro Negredo should have scored when he fired over 15 minutes from time.
But Barca held on to record their 22nd win from 25 league games this season.
Real Madrid also had to come from behind to win 2-1 at relegation threatened Deportivo La Coruna thanks to second-half goals from Kaka and Gonzalo Higuain.
Riki had fired in at Diego Lopez’s near post to give the hosts a deserved lead on 31 minutes.
However, Deportivo were left to rue missing a number of chances to extend their advantage when Kaka equalised with a fine curling effort 17 minutes from time and Higuain sealed the comeback 15 minutes later with an easy finish after brilliant build-up play from Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Madrid boss Jose Mourinho had made his intentions clear ahead of Tuesday’s clash with Barcelona as he left Ronaldo, Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira on the bench in a side that included seven changes from last weekend’s 2-0 win over Rayo Vallecano.
“We have a big squad and the manager plays who he thinks is best for each game,” Higuain told Gol TV.
“The important thing is to win and now think about Tuesday. We have great desire and hope for the games coming up, we know that in a week we will be playing for the Cup and the Champions League.”
Valencia moved into fifth place as they came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at Real Zaragoza thanks to two goals from Jonas.
Mallorca meanwhile remain rooted in the bottom three as they conceded three times in the final 19 minutes to lose 3-1 at home to Getafe.