In a rematch of the 2014 UEFA Super Cup, Real Madrid will welcome Sevilla to the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday, as the teams prepare to contest the game they've each had in hand over their La Liga rivals since Real's trip to Morocco for the Club World Cup in December postponed this meeting.
Date: Wednesday, Feb. 4
Time: 7:45 p.m. GMT/2:45 p.m. ET/8:45 p.m. local
Venue: Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid
TV Info: Sky Sports (United Kingdom), beIN Sports (United States)
Games in hand are often seen as an advantage. A chance to usurp a rival in the table or to put distance between oneself and the chasing pack after a long period in which the standings have been somewhat distorted.
But for both Real Madrid and Sevilla, Wednesday's catch up match from Week 16 comes at an inopportune time, compounding an already heavy January fixture list.
For the hosts, this midweek clash will mean three demanding league matches in eight days and it isn't exactly the preparation Los Blancos would want heading into the pivotal derby with Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon on Saturday.
Indeed, with a sense of fatigue surrounding the European champions at present, and with manager Carlo Ancelotti facing the necessity to rotate his squad, this meeting with Sevilla represents both an undesirable and tricky fixture—particularly without the presence of Cristiano Ronaldo, who is still missing through suspension.
Sevilla, meanwhile, face the same three-games-in-eight-days task that Real Madrid do thanks to this encounter, with Unai Emery's men also looking to rebound strongly after a disappointing exit from the Copa del Rey at the hands of Espanyol.
Additionally, there's a pressing need for Los Rojiblancos to arrest their extremely poor form away from home against the league's heavyweights. After a 4-0 thrashing at the hands of Atletico back in September, Sevilla were hammered 5-1 by Barcelona at the Camp Nou in November.
Those results form part of a trend for the Andalusians, who have tended to struggle mightily against La Liga's bigger sides—they were also beaten soundly by Valencia, were edged out by Athletic Bilbao and were hardly convincing against Villarreal—despite often cruising past the Primera Division's minnows.
Emery, however, might feel that his side are getting Real Madrid at just the right time.
|Last 5 Results in All Competitions (most recent first)|
|W: 4-1 vs. Real Sociedad||W: 3-2 vs. Espanyol|
|W: 2-1 vs. Cordoba||W: 1-0 vs. Espanyol|
|W: 3-0 vs. Getafe||L: 1-3 vs. Valencia|
|D: 2-2 vs. Atletico Madrid||L: 1-3 vs. Espanyol|
|W: 3-0 vs. Espanyol||W: 2-0 vs. Malaga|
Players to Watch
With Ronaldo serving the second match of his two-game ban, the focus again shifts to Gareth Bale to lead this Real Madrid outfit in attack.
In the absence of the Ballon d'Or winner against Real Sociedad, the Welshman put together another mixed display and drew the ire of the Bernabeu when squandering a golden opportunity in the first half that James Rodriguez was better placed to take.
In this clash with Sevilla, the attacking burden on Bale is likely to be raised again, with Rodriguez and dynamic full-back Marcelo, according to the above report from AS, both expected to sit out Wednesday's game to ensure their availability for the derby with Atletico Madrid.
For the visitors, it will be intriguing to watch Gerard Deulofeu tackle the demands of the Bernabeu, should Emery award him a start on the right side of his attack.
On loan from Barcelona, the 20-year-old has enjoyed a strong campaign in 2014-15, thriving with his pace and passing vision in Sevilla's up-tempo, counter-attacking style.
Provided the possible holding pair of Grzegorz Krychowiak and Vicente Iborra can provide a platform for Los Rojiblancos, Deulofeu should enjoy some opportunities to run at a Real Madrid outfit that can be vulnerable against counter-attacks.
Critical in deciding the outcome of this contest will be the battle between Sergio Ramos and Carlos Bacca.
For the Real Madrid defender, the new year has brought on a difficult stretch. Against Atletico at the Vicente Calderon, the Spaniard gave away a penalty to Raul Garcia, before gifting Fernando Torres his second goal in the return leg of the Copa del Rey tie with an awful pass inside his own half.
The defensive difficulties continued in the meetings with Getafe and Cordoba, the second of which saw Ramos concede another penalty before being brushed aside too easily by Bebe and Fede Cartabia.
His opponent on Wednesday, Bacca, is the sort of striker capable of capitalising on that form slump.
A powerful, all-action No. 9, the Colombian has tallied 12 goals and four assists in La Liga this season and enjoys his one-on-one tussles with leading defenders.
Dangerous for Ramos is Bacca's tendency to move into the midfield to gain possession before turning and charging at the defensive line—the sort of style that has given the defender problems in recent weeks.
Odds (per Odds Shark)
Real Madrid: 1/5