Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid
February 9, 2013; 21:00 GMT
No sooner did Real Madrid rejoice in their performances in the Copa Del Rey against Barcelona, did they fall again in Andalusia. They have lost to Malaga, Sevilla, Betis and now Granada this season. This pattern of plays must surely be frustrating for Mourinho and the club as the all-important Champions’ League clash against Manchester United looms ever closer on the horizon. While Real Madrid seem to be putting their best game forward in big matches, the inconsistency and poor performance in the League is surely a matter of concern.
Sevilla, on the other hand, have made the right decision in sacking Michel and appointing Unai Emery as the coach. The former Valencia manager knows how to manage a club in deep debt and has churned out better results for Sevilla since his return to La Liga. They have won against Granada and Rayo helping themselves to a decent 11th spot in the table and they seem to away from the relegation battle at least for the time being.
Unai Emery is a coach who is obsessed with tactics and is known for his attractive but effective style of football and he has not disappointed thus far at Sevilla. Jose Mourinho will be aware of the impending dangers and will have to send out his best team with enough motivation to win and serve a reminder to Manchester United how deadly they can be.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Diego Lopez will be starting against a team from which he was bought in January and he will be keen to prove himself to his former club. Iker Casillas is still injured and it will be at least a month before the Real Madrid captain can start again. Pepe is back in training and in contention for a starting berth against Manchester United but Mourinho will probably start Ramos and Varane in central defense considering how good Varane has been in the past couple of weeks.
Marcelo was scrutined last week by Mourinho when his time on the pitch failed to create any impact. Coentrao has also been hugely ineffective this season but Mourinho has no other options left. With the United game looming large, Mourinho may rest Arbeloa and start Essien at right-back. The former Chelsea midfielder has delivered whenever called upon and offers decent defensive solidity.
Sami Khedira is coming off a fine performance for Germany midweek and could be on the bench earning a well deserved rest before United come calling. Modric and Alonso are expected to start in central midfield. Angel Di Maria has been the subject of transfer speculation after reports emerged that Real Madrid were looking to land Gareth Bale in the summer. The Argentinian has been poor all season and could make way for Callejon in the starting XI.
Karim Benzema is also another player who is being monitored closely. His performances have been falling and the goals have dried up. Gonzalo Higuain also isn’t in great form but he offers greater work ethic and his confidence will be high after scoring a goal for Argentina mid-week. Cristiano Ronaldo and Mesut Ozil will complete the XI.
Sevilla are an ideal team to play before the Champions League clash against Manchester United as Unai Emery loves to attack rather than stay back defending in numbers. Real Madrid should be expecting to be pressed harder in their own half and the chances will arise to score. The onus will be on Ronaldo to capitalize on them.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Lopez; Essien, Varane, Ramos, Coentrao; Alonso, Modric; Callejon, Ozil, Ronaldo; Higuain
Unai Emery is a manager who wants his teams to attack and play proper football. His teams press higher and have a good passing range and it would be no different against Real Madrid. In Navas, Reyes and Negredo, Sevilla have players who offer pace, technique and finishing respectively.
Ivan Rakitic will be missed after having been sent off against Rayo Vallecano last weekend. Kondogbia is likely to take his place in the starting XI. Also, Negredo was the subject of intense transfer speculation in the January transfer window with rumors of Tottenham wanting him but Unai Emery will be relieved that his best target man is still in Spain.
Dutchman Hedwiges Maduro and Chilean Gary Medel are expected to start in the central defensive midfield. Emery will probably employ a 4-2-3-1 or has the option to employ a 4-3-3. The Argentine Diego Perotti is out injured and his absence will be felt in the midfield. Piotr Trochowski, another decent midfielder, is also injured limiting the midfield options available to Emery.
The right back, Cicinho is also injured which means, Coke, Fazio, Spahic, Navarro will line-up against the Real Madrid offense. The biggest positive for Sevilla will be the return of Andres Palop from his hamstring injury. The Sevilla skipper could not have chosen a better game for his return and will boost the team chances in what promises to be a thrilling clash.
Probable Staring Line-up (4-2-3-1): Palop; Coke, Fazio, Spahic, Navarro; Maduro, Medel; Navas, Reyes, Kondogbia; Negredo
Player to Watch Out For
Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)
After announcing that he is no longer unhappy, the focus will be on Cristiano Ronaldo to provide the spark needed to lift this team before his previous club come calling. A couple of goals would be perfect preparation for the mid-week Champions’ League clash.
Real Madrid 2 – 1 Sevilla
While Real Madrid have been fairly inconsistent away from home, it is their home form which is the bright spark in a rather topsy-turvy season. Real Madrid are yet to lose at their legendary stadium and with the crowd wanting more after their disastrous performance, Los Blancos may just hit the ground running and walk away with a victory.
Blast from the Past