Real Madrid will be hoping to go to the top of the La Liga table when they face off against Sevilla at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano this weekend.

Following the disappointment of their UEFA Champions League elimination, Real Madrid will now turn their focus towards retaining their La Liga crown when they lock horns with a high-flying Sevilla outfit in Matchweek 35 on Sunday night.

A 2-0 defeat to Chelsea in midweek meant Real Madrid crashed out of the Champions League at the semi-final stages. Prior to that, Zinedine Zidane’s side had beaten Osasuna 2-0 in La Liga and will be aiming to return to winning ways. With Barcelona and Atletico Madrid playing out a goalless draw on SaturdayLos Blancos slipped down to third place in the table but are just three points off of leaders Atleti, and a win would send them to the top.

However, in Sevilla, they will be facing an opponent who have been doing very well and could still very much be in the title mix, despite the 1-0 defeat to Athletic Bilbao last time out, provided results elsewhere go their way. Indeed, Julen Lopetegui’s side are currently fourth in the table, four points off of Real Madrid and seven below Atletico. A victory over the reigning champions and they will be right back breathing down the necks of the top three.

The reverse fixture played at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in December last year saw Real Madrid eke out a narrow 1-0 victory thanks to an own goal from Sevilla goalkeeper Bono. Ahead of their latest meeting at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano on Sunday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Real Madrid

Real Madrid have been hit with another fresh injury heading into Sunday’s game as captain Sergio Ramos is ruled out after he made his return in the last game against Chelsea. He joins Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane and Lucas Vazquez out on the sidelines. In addition to that, Ferland Mendy has been left out of the squad named by Zinedine Zidane for the game against Sevilla due to an injury.

Given what’s at stake, the Real Madrid boss is likely to revert to his tried and tested 4-3-3 formation rather than opting to field a three-man backline on Sunday, even though there is the chance of Marcelo getting exposed on the left-hand side. Federico Valverde, who has previously done the job at right-back this term, should get the nod ahead of Alvaro Odriozola while Nacho and Eder Militao will be the two centre-backs.

Casemiro will be the man holding the fort in the middle of the park for Real Madrid while Luka Modric and Toni Kroos look to provide the creative essence from the centre of the park for the reigning champions. The duo was successfully shut down by Chelsea in midweek and if Sevilla are able to do that as well, then they could very well come out on top this weekend.

Vinicius Junior is expected to get the nod over Eden Hazard on the left flank as Marcelo will need defensive support from the winger, who will need to track back regularly and effectively, something that the Belgian doesn’t excel at. On the opposite side, Marco Asensio is likely to get the nod over Rodrygo Goes, with Karim Benzema the undisputed choice to start as the centre-forward.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Valverde, Militao, Nacho, Marcelo; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Asensio, Benzema, Vinicius Jr.

Sevilla

Unlike Real Madrid, Sevilla does not have any major injury-related absentees for Sunday’s trip to the capital. In fact, centre-back Jules Kounde, who had been termed as a doubt for the clash, is fit and has been named in the travelling squad by manager Julen Lopetegui. Joris Gnagnon and Munir El Haddadi are the only two players missing out.

Sevilla will set up in a 4-3-3 shape in front of goalkeeper Bono with Jesus Navas, Kounde, Diego Carlos and Marcos Acuna forming the four-man defensive unit. The full-backs, Navas and Acuna, will have the license to push forward regularly, which could pose problems to Real Madrid, especially on the right side where Navas can combine with Suso to deadly effect against Marcelo.

Fernando will sit the deepest in midfield alongside Ivan Rakitic, with Joan Jordan likely to be an option on the bench. They will have the task of cutting out the influence of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, while Rakitic will also have the additional responsibility of picking out incisive forward passes for his attacking teammates. Alejandro Gomez will be third midfielder, who will look to drive Sevilla upfield and create openings.

As iterated earlier, Suso will slot in on the right and will be a major thorn in the side for Marcelo while Lucas Ocampos will also a pose a major threat from the left. Youssef En-Nesyri, who is attracting a lot of interest from the Premier League, ought to line up as the centre-forward for Los Nervionenses against the champions.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Bono; Navas, Kounde, Carlos, Acuna; Rakitic, Fernando, Gomez; Suso, En-Nesyri, Ocampos

Key Stats

  • Real Madrid have won 19 of their last 24 home matches in La Liga.
  • Sevilla have come out on top in each of their last three away games in La Liga, winning each by a one-goal margin.
  • Real Madrid, though, have beaten Sevilla in 14 of their last 15 home meetings across all competitions.
  • Sevilla have lost only one of their last five away matches against teams from Madrid in La Liga (W3 D1), with that defeat coming against league leaders Atletico Madrid in January earlier this year.
  • Real Madrid have kept a clean sheet in each of their last four games in La Liga. Only on one occasion have they managed to keep five consecutive shut-outs in the top-flight with Zinedine Zidane as manager (July 2020).

Player to Watch

Nacho

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In the absence of Sergio Ramos, the Real Madrid cantera had stepped up in a big way over the past couple of months, taking over the mantle of the defensive leader and marshaling things admirably. Nacho, alongside, Eder Militao were key to some of Real Madrid’s important wins over the likes of Liverpool and Barcelona during that period.

However, the Spanish international was torn apart by Chelsea in midweek, with the likes of Timo Werner and Kai Havertz causing him endless problems. Nacho, though, will need to bounce back quickly from that outing as he will have a crucial role to play on Sunday with no Ramos and Varane yet again.

Apart from keeping things organised and minimizing the threat of Youssef En-Nesyri, the 31-year-old will also be required to cover for and support Marcelo on the left side, which could make things quite challenging for Nacho. A big game beckons Real Madrid’s trusted utility man.

Prediction

Real Madrid 1-1 Sevilla

Real Madrid’s season seems to have gone somewhat off the rails in recent weeks as they have failed to win five of their last seven games in all competitions (D4 L1). Injuries haven’t helped matters one bit for Zinedine Zidane & co. while the midweek defeat to Chelsea will have hurt their confidence as well.

Sevilla, though, are coming into the game on the back of a defeat themselves and don’t have the best of records away from home against Real Madrid. It will be a closely-contested encounter on Sunday night with little separating the two teams especially due to the key absentees for the home team. A stalemate seems the most likely outcome from this one, handing Atletico Madrid the advantage in the race for the La Liga title.

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