Real Madrid will be receiving Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu this Saturday at 10 p.m. local time. Despite the gap in the table rankings, Real Madrid is third while Sevilla stand 11th, their form in recent weeks has been similar.
Real Madrid League Form: WDWWL
Sevilla League Form: WLDWW
Madrid and Sevilla both took the same amount of points from their last five league matches, but the atmosphere in the two camps could not be more different.
On the one hand, Madrid keep on dropping points and had an abysmal performance in their defeat to Granada at the weekend. Motivation levels are low and Jose Mourinho, harshly criticized his players after the match pointing out (via Marca):
I know why some players were tired because they played on Wednesday and worked hard. I don't know why others were tired, because on Wednesday they were on the bench or in the stands.
On the other hand, Sevilla, after a disastrous first half of the season, are showing signs of recovery under their new coach Unai Emery. They handed him his first win in the league with impressive goals from Alvaro Negredo and Ivan Rakitic. Rakitic was later sent off after receiving a yellow card for diving, having already been booked in the first half.
Since taking over the Andalusian club, Emery has managed four points out of six possible and will look to continue this run of form against Madrid.
In the reverse fixture this season, on matchday four, Sevilla created an upset by inflicting Madrid’s second defeat of the season. That game was decided by a solitary goal scored by Piotr Trochowski from a corner.
On that Saturday evening in Sevilla, Madrid wore their alternative green kit for the first time and were unrecognizable on the pitch, in every sense of the word. That time too, at the end of the match, Mourinho had scathing words for his team, declaring (via Goal.com): “I don’t have a team right now.”
So far this season, Real Madrid have always bounced back from their defeats winning the next match, but this will be a hard test though. It will have an extra significance for Los Blancos, as it is their last match before facing Manchester United in the Champions League.
Both teams will be missing key players on Saturday.
Photos of Iker Casillas emerged this week of the goalkeeper no longer needing a cast for his broken hand, but he will still be unavailable on Saturday. If Mourinho confirms the trend of the last few weeks, it will be Diego López in goal facing his former team, just over a month after leaving the Sevilla camp.
The good news for Los Blancos is that Pepe was back in training, following a month long absence after his operation in early January. With his recovery now completed it remains to be seen if he will be included in the starting lineup. With Raphaël Varane in good form, Mourinho may choose to reintroduce the Portuguese progressively.
Just six weeks ago Sevilla had the luxury of having two world-class goalkeepers in their squad, and having Diego López sit on the bench seemed like a waste of talent. With Andrés Palop in goal, there was no need for López, which is one of the reasons the latter went to Real Madrid.
Of course almost immediately after the transfer was completed Palop injured himself and Sevilla were left to rely on veteran Portuguese Beto who had yet to play a match for the club. Luckily Beto has demonstrated he has the credentials to stand in for the likes of Palop and López, and has produced some fine performances in the last few matches, having only been beaten from the penalty spot.
It has not yet been confirmed if Palop will return from injury to face Real Madrid, but either way Sevilla fans will feel reassured that both their keepers have demonstrated they are at top level.
A much more sensitive absence will be that of Ivan Rakitic, sent off in the Sevilla’s last game for two bookable offences. In that game Rakitic showed the two faces of his game, scoring a wonder goal from almost the halfway line before being sent off for diving.
Replays from his first yellow card, picked up for supposedly elbowing a Rayo player when competing for an aerial ball, suggest that the referee’s decision may have been harsh. Sevilla may appeal the decision, and it is still not completely off the cards that the Croatian may be available for the game against Madrid.
Right back Cicinho was injured during the game with Rayo and may also be absent against Real Madrid. However, his replacement, Coke, had a good match and may even be Emery’s first choice.
Fabio Coentrao - Sergio Ramos - Raphaël Varane - Alvaro Arbeloa
Xabi Alonso - Sami Khedira – Mesut Ozil - Angel Di Maria - Cristiano Ronaldo
Coke – Federico Fazio - Emir Spahic - Fernando Navarro
Gary Medel - Manu del Moral - Geoffrey Kondogbia - Jesus Navas - Jose Antonio Reyes
Real Madrid 3, Sevilla 1