Fireworks expected as Real Madrid prepare to host Sevilla in LaLiga Santander this Saturday
One of LaLiga’s most historic fixtures will again not lack for narratives, including Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui returning to the capital and Real Madrid skipper Sergio Ramos facing his former team once more, if his ankle allows it.
There is extra spice with both sides involved in this season’s unpredictable and exciting title race. Real Madrid sit joint-top with Barcelona at the mid-way point of the campaign, with Sevilla just five points behind in fourth place.
Los Blancos’ home form this season has been excellent, with six wins and three draws in the league in front of their own fans so far. Zinedine Zidane’s formidable defence has conceded just six goals in those nine matches, a defensive record which has helped make Belgian international keeper Thibaut Courtois the leading contender to take the ‘Zamora’ award for LaLiga’s best goalkeeper this season.
Key at the other end for Real Madrid has been the form of centre-forward Karim Benzema, who has 12 goals and five assists in LaLiga already. The Frenchman’s contribution has been vital given fitness issues affecting the team’s other high-profile attackers Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard. But the number ‘9’ missed the last two Real Madrid games and it’s not sure if he could be set for the game.
Away form has not been a strength of Sevilla’s in recent years, but that has changed under Lopetegui this term. The rojiblancos have the best ‘road-record’ in LaLiga so far, with 20 points in total from their first 10 away games. Summer signings Diego Carlos and Fernando have been excellent in defensive roles, while evergreen Argentine playmaker Ever Banega gets better and better.
Lopetegui is likely to be extra motivated on Saturday, having had a short spell as Real Madrid coach last season. Sevilla’s on loan left-back Sergio Reguilon should also be up for it and will be free to face his ‘parent’ club. Mexico international Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez also has a Bernabeu past and will be hoping Lopetegui gives him a chance to feature, although it seems to be some movements around the Mexican striker ahead the current winter transfer market.
This fixture is also always extra special for Real Madrid skipper Ramos, who was born in Seville and started his career at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan. The 32-year-old usually has an eventful time against his former club, with four goals scored and 12 yellow cards in 16 LaLiga meetings to date. It’s also true that he suffered a severe pain in his ankle during the last Real game, so it’s not sure if he will be able to play.
Real Madrid ended a run of four straight LaLiga defeats at the Sanchez-Pizjuan last September with a 1-0 win thanks to a goal from Benzema. The story has been different at the Bernabeu recently, where Madrid have taken the three points in each of the last LaLiga campaigns. 2018/19's fixture finished 2-0 to Los Blancos, with the goals coming late from Casemiro and Luka Modric.
Saturday will also be Real Madrid's first game since last Sunday's Spanish Super Cup victory in Saudi Arabia, so the atmosphere is expected to be great at Bernabeu. Meanwhile Sevilla also had a successful weekend as they easily progressed to the Copa del Rey last 32 with a straightforward 5-0 victory at lower tier side UM Escobedo.
All’s perfectly poised for Saturday at the Bernabeu, with plenty to prove for players on both sides as they go head to head for three points likely to be huge in this season's LaLiga title race.Published 17 Jan 2020, 19:36 IST