Real Madrid will be aiming to strengthen their grip at the top of the La Liga table when they take on fellow title challengers Sevilla this weekend.

Real Madrid will be keen on extending their winning run to six games across all competitions when they lock horns with title rivals, Sevilla, at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday night.

Real Madrid are enjoying a fine run of form currently, having not lost in any of their previous eight contests across all competitions. Carlo Ancelotti’s men thrashed Granada 4-1 in La Liga last weekend, opening up a one-point lead over Real Sociedad in second, with a game in hand. Following that, Los Blancos defeated Sheriff Tiraspol 3-0 in the Champions League to qualify for the knockout stages.

Real Madrid will be looking to carry that momentum forward, a task that will not be made easy by Sevilla. Managed by ex-Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui, Los Nervionenses have progressed leaps and bounds over the past couple of seasons. They have emerged as genuine title contenders this term, with the likes of Atletico Madrid and Barcelona slipping up.

Sevilla are currently third in the table, just two points off of Real Madrid, and a victory on Sunday would send them to the top of the pile. While they did fail to come out on top in their last La Liga clash, being held to a 2-2 draw by Deportivo Alaves, the Andalusian club did get back to winning ways this midweek, beating Wolfsburg 2-0 in the Champions League.

Ahead of this top-of-the-table clash coming our way from the Santiago Bernabeu, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Real Madrid

Real Madrid have welcomed midfielder Federico Valverde back into the squad for the game, with the Uruguayan completely recovering from his injury. However, Eden Hazard remains unavailable yet again while both Dani Ceballos and Gareth Bale are out injured. David Alaba, who picked up a knock in midweek, has been deemed fit enough to be named in the squad.

Carlo Ancelotti is unlikely to make any changes to the side that started against Sheriff Tiraspol in Moldova earlier this week, as the manager looks to set out his best team in the hunt for a win. That would mean Dani Carvajal, Eder Militao, Alaba, and Ferland Mendy will form the backline that will protect Thibaut Courtois in the Real Madrid goal.

The three-man midfield unit also picks itself with the experienced trio of Casemiro, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, all guaranteed starters. The return of Valverde and the availability of Eduardo Camavinga in the ranks does provide Ancelotti with options to switch things up if needed.

Rodrygo Goes returned from injury in the midweek clash and made a positive impression. The Brazilian should hold on to his spot in the starting XI ahead of Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez. There is no looking past Vinicius Junior on the left flank while Karim Benzema spearheads the Real Madrid attack against Sevilla.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Alaba, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Rodrygo, Benzema, Vinicius

Sevilla

Sevilla have several notable absentees for their trip to the capital this weekend. Key stars Youssef En-Nesyri and Jesus Navas have been ruled out of action until the new year due to injuries, while Erik Lamela and Suso are absent from the squad due to fitness problems.

Like their opponents, Sevilla will also line up in a 4-3-3 formation in front of goalkeeper Bono. Jules Kounde, a long-term transfer target of Real Madrid, will form the central defensive partnership with seasoned Brazilian star Diego Carlos. Gonzalo Montiel and Marcos Acuna ought to be the two full-backs on the right and left sides, respectively.

Veteran midfielder Fernando is the preferred option for Julen Lopetegui in the holding midfield role ahead of Thomas Delaney. The 34-year-old will look to keep a close watch on Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, with support coming from former Barcelona star Ivan Rakitic. The third midfield slot ought to be taken up by Joan Jordan, who will be tasked with providing the attacking support.

Moving forward, with En-Nesyri unavailable, Rafa Mir becomes the obvious choice to start in the No. 9 role. Lucas Ocampos ought to take up the right flank in Lamela’s absence, while Alejandro Gomez should slot in on the left side and try to pick apart the Real Madrid defence with his guile and creativity. Munir El Haddadi and ex-Real Madrid ace Oscar Rodriguez will provide attacking cover from the bench.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Bono; Montiel, Kounde, Carlos, Acuna; Rakitic, Fernando, Jordan; Ocampos, Mir, Gomez

Key Stats

  • Real Madrid are undefeated in 30 of their last 31 La Liga matches.
  • Sevilla are unbeaten in their previous six games in the Spanish top-flight.
  • Real Madrid have not lost to Sevilla in their past 16 home meetings against the Andalusians across all competitions.
  • Sevilla have lost only one of their last seven away games in La Liga this season (W3 D3).
  • Real Madrid have earned 30 points after their 13 games in the 2021/22 La Liga – their highest tally at this stage in the competition since 2016/17. 

Player to Watch

Karim Benzema

The top guy for Real Madrid. (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

The top guy for Real Madrid. (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

Real Madrid have plenty of game-changers in their midst. Vinicius Junior has been in red-hot form this term, and Rodrygo showed the impact he can make after returning from injury earlier this week while both Luka Modric and Toni Kroos continue to shine brightly despite not getting any younger. However, with a game of this magnitude, the main man, Karim Benzema, could hold the key for Los Blancos.

The 33-year-old has been directly involved in 11 goals in nine games at the Santiago Bernabeu against Sevilla in La Liga (six goals, five assists), indicating that he relishes the challenge of taking on Los Nervionenses. However, in compatriot Jules Kounde he will be coming up against a formidable opponent on Sunday night. How Benzema emerges out of his duel with his fellow Frenchman could have a huge bearing on the outcome of the game.

Prediction

Real Madrid 2-1 Sevilla

Both teams have looked solid and strong this season and will be high on confidence heading into Sunday’s contest after positive results in the midweek. Sevilla have time and again proven themselves to be a formidable opposition and will pose a major challenge to Real Madrid. However, at the moment, Los Blancos seem to be in supreme touch, with their attacking and midfield units performing admirably.

Throw in Karim Benzema’s impressive record against the Andalusians, and the scales tilt slightly in favour of Carlo Ancelotti & co. It is certainly a tough one to call, but The Hard Tackle predicts a narrow 2-1 win for the current La Liga leaders.

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