Sevilla have a chance to go to the top of the La Liga table, at least for a little while, if they manage a win in the away game against Valencia on Saturday.
Valencia have had a stop-start domestic season so far. Marcelino and his men have been unable to replicate their success from the 2017-18 campaign. But, the highlight of their current season has been the amount of draws they have recorded in the league, with 8 of the 14 games ending with both teams sharing the spoils.
Every season has a surprise package that tries to battle the ‘Big Three’ for the title, at least early on in the campaign. For the 2018-19 season, it has been Sevilla. Setting the pace early on, the Andalusian side is just a point behind Barcelona, with a 3-0 win over Real Madrid the highlight of their campaign so far.
But, the real test starts with Valencia, who, despite their poor position on the table, have tasted defeat the same number of times as Sevilla (3) so far this season. Sevilla, in their next five fixtures after Valencia, also face Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid among others.
The match is set to be an interesting one, with bookmakers favouring Valencia, surprisingly. You can check out the la liga odds for other games at the tip of a click.
Thus, three points against Valencia will be imperative if they intend to continue to be a part of the title race. Valencia will be keen to return to winning ways as well after the 2-0 defeat to Real Madrid. We take a closer look at the two squads.
Team News & Tactics
Marcelino could be without three of his first-choice stars, with Jeison Murillo, Goncalo Guedes and Rodrigo Moreno all doubtful for the Saturday fixture, alongside Kevin Gameiro. Neto will hope to do better in goal for Valencia while Daniel Wass could lose his place at right-back.
Wass did not perform up to expectations against Real Madrid and could be replaced by Cristiano Piccini, who did put in a shift after coming on for the former. Ezequiel Garay, Gabriel Paulista and Jose Gaya will complete the back four.
With Marcelino preferring the 4-4-2 formation in almost all the matches, the two spots in central midfield will be crucial to their success. Captain Dani Parejo is guaranteed to be one of the two while we expect Francis Coquelin to edge Geoffrey Kondogbia for the other slot.
Carlos Soler will line up on the right, with Guedes being deployed on the left, should the Portuguese be match-fit in time. In attack, Santi Mina should start. But, it will be down to who is fit as Marcelino chooses a partner for him. Michy Batshuayi is unlikely to be given a start, even though he was the difference during the midweek Copa del Rey match against Ebro.
Should Rodrigo be fit, we should see him start. It should be between Gameiro and Rodrigo as to who makes himself fit and available in time for the match against Sevilla.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Neto; Piccini, Garay, Gabriel, Gaya; Soler, Parejo, Coquelin, Guedes; Rodrigo Moreno, Santi Mina
Sevilla had the midweek off and should thus, be better off in terms of fitness issues. Aleix Vidal is closing in on a return from injury. But, he, along with Maxime Gonalons, continue to be sidelined. Jesus Navas is doubtful for the tie and is likely to be assessed before the match against Valencia.
The three-man backline seems to be doing the trick for Sevilla and Pablo Machin is likely to retain it for Saturday. Tomas Vaclik has made the goalkeeping spot his own and should start, with the trio of Daniel Carrico, Simon Kjaer and Sergi Gomez in charge of keeping the Valencia attackers in check.
Machin is likely to instruct his team to go harder for the victory, which means he is likely to sacrifice Roque Mesa for an attacking midfielder in an almost Trequartista kind of role. Pablo Sarabia is the best candidate to fill that spot, with a four-man midfield behind him.
The manager will likely retain the midfield four from the 1-1 draw against Alaves, with Gabriel Mercado keeping his spot as Jesus Navas is still not match fit.
Upfront, seasoned campaigner Wissam Ben Yedder will likely accompany Andre Silva, who seems to be on a road to redeem himself for his lacklustre 2017-18 campaign.
Probable Lineup (3-4-1-2): Vaclik; Carrico, Kjaer, Gomez; Mercado, Vazquez, Banega, Escudero; Sarabia; Ben Yedder, Silva
1. Valencia are undefeated in their last five league meetings against Sevilla at the Mestalla, with four wins and a draw.
2. Sevilla have scored more goals from open play situations (17) than Valencia have in total (11) this season.
3. Sevilla’s Goal Difference matches the total number of goals scored by Valencia in La Liga this season.
4. No Valencia player has scored more than twice in total in the league this season so far, with Dani Parejo, Kevin Gameiro and Santi Mina tied at two apiece.
5. Andre Silva has already matched his goal tally from last season, with 8 goals to his name, having played less than half the number of matches.
Player to Watch
The versatile Spaniard has been one of the in-form players for Sevilla this season and has been considered as a key player within the setup. While his best this season has come when deployed in central midfield, he has been above average when played as a number 10 as well.
In the role that Pablo Machin will ask him to do on Saturday, Pablo Sarabia doesn’t need much pace or acceleration. Machin will be hoping the Spaniard can use his vision and ability to slice through the defence while being able to finish any attacks he can get himself on the end of. Sarabia’s success in his role will be the decider for Sevilla on Saturday.
Valencia 2-2 Sevilla
Sevilla have been a beast this season and one of the reasons for their current position on the La Liga table is their home form, with the team showing signs of struggle in away fixtures. Valencia might not have been as dominant at the Mestalla this season. But, they have still suffered just a single league defeat at home so far, that too in close fashion to Girona, who are one of the high flyers currently.
We believe Valencia have successfully adapted to a game plan wherein the team is difficult to beat, despite not being too tight at the back and not overly ambitious or aggressive in their forward forays. Against Sevilla, we believe the home side will prevail and add to their astonishing number of draws (8) so far this season. A scoring draw is what we expect from the two sides on Saturday.