Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, Madrid
Oct 30, 2013; 21:00 GMT
After a particularly dissatisfying Clasico, Real Madrid welcome Sevilla in the midst of all the questions at the Santiago Bernabeu. They have fallen six points adrift of FC Barcelona and five points behind Atletico Madrid after 10 games. Any points dropped could effectively push Real Madrid out of the title race considering the alarming consistency of Atletico and Barca.
If this was not enough, FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s comments about Cristiano Ronaldo and the Ballon d’Or have caused further outrage at the offices of Real Madrid. Ancelotti confirmed in his press conference that Florentino Perez, Real Madrid’s president, dashed off a letter to FIFA asking for explanation for the irresponsible remarks on a day when the nomination for Ballon d’Or were announced. Even the Portugal FA and Cristiano Ronaldo, on his Facebook page, released statements criticizing the views of the most powerful man in FIFA. It would be interesting to follow the sequence of events leading to the actual announcement of the winner and whether Cristiano Ronaldo would participate in the gala event or skip it as a protest.
Sevilla, on the other hand, would be glad that they don’t have such ground-breaking issues to worry about. They are currently sitting safe mid-table and at this moment are balancing their Europa League and La Liga commitments. Last week’s comfortable victory against a ten-man Osasuna puts them on level points with Espanyol and Valencia. It should be noted that Unai Emery hasn’t always been very successful against Real Madrid and there is no reason to believe that it could change now.
Real Madrid – Team News, Lineup And Formation
Ancelotti has been widely criticized for his tactical set-up against Barcelona and rightly so. Playing Ramos in central midfield backfired as the Spaniard resembled a ticking time bomb waiting to be sent off after he collected his first yellow early in the game. And then there was the Bale gamble; dropping Benzema was a sensible decision but replacing him with a still struggling Bale was not the smartest decision. The Welshman clearly looked out of place and could hardly make any impact in an unfamiliar false 9 role.
Ancelotti indicated in his press conference that Bale would be restored to playing on the right and Benzema would start against Sevilla. Ronaldo would lead the line alongside both of them.
Isco, who had a great start to his Real Madrid career with the Bernabeu crowd even chanting his name numerous times, suddenly finds his game time reduced and the reason for it is still unclear. Even when Real Madrid were looking to win against Barcelona, Ancelotti preferred Illarra and Jese to Isco which means that the Spaniard is currently fighting for his place in the starting XI. Sevilla may be a good opportunity to prove his credentials and cement his place in the XI.
Alvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Pepe and Marcelo are expected to protect Diego Lopez who would continue to be Real Madrid’s primary La Liga keeper in spite of being beaten by Alexis Sanchez’s brilliant chip at the weekend.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-3-3): Lopez; Arbeloa, Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo; Illarra, Khedira, Isco; Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo
Sevilla – Team News, Lineup And Formation
Unai Emery’s tactics need no introduction. The man gave Pep Guardiola plenty of headaches during his amazing reign at Barcelona and is now trying to give the same treatment to other coaches at Sevilla. He has lost Alvaro Negredo in the summer but Sevilla signed Kevin Gameiro, former PSG striker, as his replacement.
Sevilla will not sit back and defend deep; instead they will use Rakitic’s ball playing abilities to wrest the game from Real Madrid. And then there are Jairo and Vitolo supporting Rakitic. Mbia and Iborro would provide a shield for the defense and, with Real Madrid playing a three-man midfield, could face a torrid time covering Isco or Modric, whoever is chosen by Ancelotti.
Probable starting line-up (4-2-3-1): Beto; Figueiras, Pareja, Carrico, Moreno; Mbia, Iborro; Jairo, Rakitic, Vitolo; Gameiro
Player To Watch Out For
Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid)
In recent years, Real Madrid’s fans have not waited as desperately for anybody to return from injury as they did for Xabi Alonso. The midfielder, widely considered to be irreplaceable since he signed for Madrid, has been sorely missed and his ability to control the game would have proved to be a substantial asset for Ancelotti against Barca. Now, the former Liverpool man has been named in the squad and could make a late appearance in the game. All eyes will be on him and how quickly he can hit his stride. A victory and a couple of Alonso-esque diagonal balls would be a perfect visual for the home support.
Real Madrid 3 – 1 Sevilla
Real Madrid are coming off a disappointing loss against Barcelona and will look to set matters right at home to avoid falling further adrift. Sevilla are a decent team on their day, but with the game being at Santiago Bernabeu, a victory for Real Madrid is more probable.
Blast From The Past