Sevilla vs. Real Madrid: 6 Things We Learned

Nick DorringtonSpecial to Bleacher ReportMarch 26, 2014

Sevilla vs. Real Madrid: 6 Things We Learned

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    Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    Real Madrid’s title hopes were dealt a further blow with a 2-1 defeat away to in-form Sevilla on Wednesday. Madrid took the lead through Cristiano Ronaldo, but goals in both halves from Carlos Bacca saw Sevilla reverse their deficit and emerge with the three points.

    The result could have big implications for the title race and the battle for European places. The match helped us get a better idea of where both clubs stand going into the final stretch of the season.

    Here are six things we learned from Real Madrid’s 2-1 defeat to Sevilla.

Sevilla Are the Real Deal

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    Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    Sevilla came into the match on the back of five consecutive league victories and seven wins in their last eight matches in all competitions. Prior to the midweek fixtures, they had the fifth-best record in La Liga during the second half of the season, per my calculation.

    This, however, was big test for Unai Emery’s team and one that they passed with flying colours. Real Madrid did, of course, see a lot of the ball and create some good chances, particularly in the first half, but Sevilla were dogged in their defensive work and always carried a threat on the counterattack.

    In victory, Emery becomes the first Sevilla coach in history to win six consecutive league matches in one season, per Diario de Sevilla. It remains a long shot, but in this kind of form, Sevilla may yet entertain hopes of bridging the six-point gap to Athletic Bilbao in fourth.

La Liga Title Now Looks Difficult for Real Madrid

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    Angel Fernandez/Associated Press

    With an hour gone in last Sunday’s Clasico, it looked like Real Madrid were going to both maintain their three-point lead over city rivals Atletico and open up a seven-point gap to Barcelona. Fast forward three days, and their position is much less healthy.

    Two consecutive defeats now leave them two points behind Barcelona and three behind league leaders Atletico, who ground out a 1-0 win at home to Granada. Madrid have an inferior head-to-head record against both of the teams ahead of them, meaning that the gaps essentially stand at three and four points, respectively.

    Madrid now have to rely on the help of other teams to win the league title.

Ronaldo Is Not Invincible (Even Against Sevilla)

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    Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    After a poor performance in the Clasico, Sevilla seemed to be the perfect opponents for Cristiano Ronaldo to get back on track. As per Marca, he had scored 15 times in 10 previous appearances against Sevilla, including seven goals at the Sanchez Pizjuan.

    He got off to a bright start, firing Madrid into the lead with a deflected free-kick on 14 minutes and having a few other efforts well-saved by Beto. He even struck the post after beating the Sevilla goalkeeper to a flicked pass from Asier Illarramendi.

    Yet in the second half, Ronaldo failed to have a significant influence on the game. He grew visibly frustrated as the match wore on, becoming particularly animated after Gareth Bale had fired a late free-kick over the bar.

    Ronaldo will be desperate to drive Madrid to victory at home to Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.

Madrid Miss Di Maria

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    Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

    Angel Di Maria was Madrid’s star performer in the Clasico, tormenting Barcelona right-back Daniel Alves and providing the assists for both of Karim Benzema’s goals, but he missed the trip to Sevilla through suspension after picking up a yellow card in that match.

    The Argentinian international has been one of Madrid’s most impressive players this season, thriving as the box-to-box element of Carlo Ancelotti’s three-man central midfield. As per Marca, Ancelotti is desperate to keep Di Maria at the club next season, and Wednesday night’s match provided evidence of why that would be the case.

    With his pace and direct forward running, Di Maria provides verticality that none of Madrid’s other central midfielders can match. Asier Illarramendi and his second-half replacement Isco were both neat and tidy, but neither provides the same forward momentum as Di Maria. Without him, Madrid struggled to create good chances once Sevilla’s defence dropped deep.

Bacca Is Deadly in Front of Goal

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    Angel Fernandez/Associated Press

    Carlos Bacca scored both of Sevilla's goals, zipping onto through balls from Jose Antonio Reyes and Ivan Rakitic and finishing calmly past Diego Lopez on both occasions.

    Those goals took his tally for the season to 14 goals and five assists in 29 league appearances (23 starts). His link-up play could still use some work, but for a team that does most of its best attacking on the counter, his turn of pace and good movement are very valuable attributes.

    Bacca currently looks a bargain at the initial €7 million that Sevilla paid to sign him from Club Brugge last summer. Bigger clubs, at home and abroad, may sniff around him if he continues in this manner until the end of the season.

Moreno Is Promising but Not Yet the Finished Article

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    Toni Rodriguez/Associated Press

    Alberto Moreno has been attracting a lot of attention due to a series of solid displays for Sevilla this season. The 21-year-old left-back made his Spanish national team debut in October of last year, and per AS, he is likely to join Real Madrid this summer.

    It was, then, a big occasion for the young full-back on Wednesday. He generally performed to a decent standard, doing OK when faced up one-on-one with Gareth Bale and showing himself to be neat and tidy in possession.

    Moreno did, however, allow Bale to run off him onto a couple of through balls in the first half and did not get forward to any great effect. He clearly has talent but still needs to mature before he will be ready to play for a club like Real Madrid on a regular basis.