Real Madrid, the only team in European football to remain unbeaten in all competitions this season, put their record on the line on Sunday evening at the imposing Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán in Sevilla.
Humbled in their own backyard by Manchester City in the Champions League in midweek, Sevilla will now aim to bounce back in the best possible way by beating the mighty Los Blancos in Andalucía on Sunday. Their domestic league form so far has been erratic (the best online football betting sites currently quote them at *6.50 to finish in a top-four position this season) picking up only 12 points from their opening ten games. But they usually save their best for a visit from one of the big boys, having already despatched Barcelona last month in front of their fanatical fans. Their home form has improved since losing their opening two games at the SánchezPizjuán to Atletico Madrid and Celta Vigo respectively. Now the Southern giants are enjoying home comforts, having won the last three on their own patch. A narrow defeat away to Villarreal last weekend and Tuesday’s 3-1 loss against Manchester City has destabilized Unai Emery’s team, a visit from the title favourites would not have been a fixture he would have chosen going into the international break.
LOS BLANCOS PROVING TO BE INVINCIBLE
Not many teams would be whistled from the field having just won a home game in the Champions League. But after Real Madrid overcame PSG on Tuesday night thanks to a slender 1-0 win, fans at the Santiago Bernabéuturned on coach Rafa Benitez and his players after a below par performance, in a game they were lucky to escape from with a victory. The 55-year-old tactician responded to the criticisms by reminding any doubters of the club’s record this season, but their next two outings look set to be their toughest yet. After Sunday’s trip to Sevilla, they host bitter rivals Barcelona in El Classico at the Bernabéu after the international break. The club from the Spanish capital are the country’s leading scorers on the road, having rifled in 12 goals already this season and last weekend they brushed aside Las Palmas 3-1 without ever needing to get out of first gear – Sunday’s opponents should give Benitez and co, an altogether stiffer test.
The hosts look set to be without their main striker Kevin Gameiro once again, after he missed the Champions League defeat in midweek with a muscle problem – Fernando Llorente looks set to replace him.Adil Rami should partner Timothee Kolodziejczak in defence as Emery opts for the same back-four that was so spectacularly taken apart by Manchester City.
Real could be without goalkeeper KeylorNavas, who has been in splendid form this season. Should he fail a late fitness test, then KikoCasilla will deputise between the posts. Brazilian full-back Marcelo is out through injury with Nacho continuing his run in the side. French international striker Karim Benzema is unlikely to be included in the squad after his highly publicised off-field troubles this week, which should mean a starting place for young Spanish forward Jesé (*2.50 on the betting exchanges to be an anytime scorer on Sunday)
PROBABLE STARTING XI’S
Sevilla(4-2-3-1) Rico; Trémoulinas, Rami, Kolodziejczak, Koke; Krychowiak, Iborra: Konoplyanka, Banega, Vitolo; Llorente
Real Madrid (4-3-3) Navas; Nacho, Varane, Ramos, Danilo; Kroos, Casemiro, Modric; Jesé, Ronaldo, Isco
HEAD TO HEAD
Real Madrid have won 12 of their last 14 meetings with Sevillain all competitions. Last season’s corresponding fixture was a five goal thriller in which Cristiano Ronaldo helped himself to a hattrick as his team won 3-2. That result last May, prevented Sevilla from recording their third consecutive home win against Los Blancos. There has not been a 0-0 draw in this fixture in all competitions since December 1993.
Sevilla 3.60 Draw 4.00 Real Madrid 1.90
*odds courtesy of Bet365
Steve Mitchell (@barafundler)