Real Madrid vs. Sevilla: Tactical Preview of the European Super Cup

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Real Madrid vs. Sevilla: Tactical Preview of the European Super Cup
Handout/Getty Images

European football returns to our screens this week via the traditional seasonal kick-off: The European Super Cup.

This year, Real Madrid, winner of the 2013-14 UEFA Champions League, take on La Liga rivals Sevilla, who pipped Benfica to the 2014 UEFA Europa League title in May.

Let's take a tactical look at how this game could pan out.

 

Real Madrid Setup

The big question regarding Real Madrid's setup has already been answered by Carlo Ancelotti, who insisted ahead of the match that James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos "will [both] play from the start," (via RealMadrid.com).

Plenty of speculation has followed the club after signing both players to an already stacked squad, and it's expected that Gareth Bale will start too given that he's back in his home city of Cardiff.

@stighefootball
Possible Real Madrid XI.

Marcelo, Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira could all miss the XI, while Ancelotti also confirmed that Keylor Navas must wait for his Blancos debut after selecting Iker Casillas to feature instead.

Everyone is eager to see if Real Madrid switch from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1 to accommodate their new No. 10s, and Wednesday will be the first (competitive) opportunity to do so.

 

Sevilla Setup

Sevilla lost key man and captain Ivan Rakitic to Barcelona this summer for circa €20 million, so the immediate focus for Los Rojiblancos will be on who they've found to replace him.

They received Denis Suarez, a tidy but raw midfield playmaker, on loan for two years in return for Rakitic, and with few other immensely creative options available, it could be that Unai Emery plumps for the Barca B man.

@stighefootball
Possible Sevilla XI.

Carlos Bacca is a question mark following an injury-riddled FIFA World Cup 2014, and Kevin Gameiro is out, so Iago Aspas, on loan from Liverpool, could carry the load up front.

They'll be solid in midfield, and that's key, with Daniel Carrico secured on a permanent deal and Grzegorz Krychowiak secured to replace Stephane M'Bia.

 

Key Area No. 1: Replacing Rakitic's Switches

Sevilla's primary mode of attack last season was to give the ball to Rakitic and see what he could rustle up. His ability to play long, accurate passes with both feet and shuffle out of danger quickly opened up the entire pitch for him and his runners.

Credit: LaLiga.com
Ivan Rakitic's long passes were the key mode of attack for Sevilla in 2013-14.

It was this ability and quick release that allowed Bacca to do what he does best: run fast, latch onto the ball and hammer a shot on goal.

Sevilla need a new tactic, unless Suarez can replicate it, and if they're playing through Aspas, it will be more measured, a fair amount slower and significantly less penetrative.

They'll sit very deep, so opening the pitch out for themselves won't be an issue, with Krychowiak and Carrico attempting to crowd out the many attacking delights Real Madrid have to offer.

 

Key Area No. 2: Real Recalibrate

Croatia coach Niko Kovac showed plenty of faith in Luka Modric's defensive ability during the World Cup by pairing him with Rakitic in a 4-2-3-1 at times. Ancelotti looks set to do the same if Marca's predicted XI is correct, and it'll be an early chance to see just how much of an emphasis the Italian places on the balance of his side.

Without question, Los Blancos' 2013-14 rendition of the 4-3-3 was as good as it gets in modern football, with drive (Angel Di Maria), mediation (Modric) and steel (Alonso/Khedira) emanating from a well-crafted middle section.

Credit: beINSPORTS
Without Di Maria, Madrid lose a key method of attack.

Many fans' pick for Player of the Season was Di Maria, whose verticality and aggressive dribbling was so important to them between the lines last year. Kroos isn't agile enough to replicate that, and when he's not playing well, he simply recycles the ball; Ancelotti needs to think about how he moves the ball from back to front.

Is James the pick to provide this?

 

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