Sevilla looking like a strong title candidate in Spain
MADRID (AP) — While Barcelona and Real Madrid struggle, Sevilla has its attack clicking and its defense ticking.
The result is first place in the Spanish league and a real hope that this could be Sevilla's year to topple the powerhouses.
"We are taking advantage of our chances and we are playing with confidence," Sevilla coach Pablo Machin said. "We know what we are capable of. We will try to keep this going for as long as possible."
Sevilla defeated Celta Vigo 2-1 on Sunday for its fourth straight league win, reaching 16 points from eight matches — one more than Barcelona and Atletico Madrid and two more than Real Madrid. Barcelona is winless in four league games, while Real Madrid hasn't won — or scored — in four consecutive matches in all competitions.
Sevilla had a chance to win the title two years ago, staying among the contenders until late in the season. But, as usual, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid ran away in the end.
Last season was a disappointment. Things started well but the team quickly dropped out of contention and finished seventh, 35 points off the lead and barely making it to the Europa League.
This season is different, so far.
SCORING AT EASE
Sevilla has shown the type of attacking force that only Barcelona and Real Madrid have displayed in recent years.
The team outscored opponents 20-7 in its last six matches in all competitions, and already has 18 goals in the Spanish league, only one fewer than Barcelona. Real Madrid, which was outclassed by Sevilla 3-0 last month, has 12 goals.
Among Sevilla's other routs this season was a 6-2 win at Levante. In the Europa League, the team defeated Lithuanian club Zalgiris Vilnius 5-0 and Belgian club Standard Liege 5-1.
Part of the reason Sevilla's attack is clicking is because of great performances by forwards Andre Silva and Wissam Ben Yedder.
Silva, the Portugal striker playing on a loan from AC Milan, has seven goals in the league, one fewer than scoring leader Cristhian Stuani of Girona.
Ben Yedder, a regular in the squad in past years, has five goals, only one fewer than Messi.
The man guiding the team's potent attack is Machin, a former right back who arrived in the offseason after three seasons with Girona, which he helped reach the first division for the first time in its history.
Girona finished 10th in its top-flight debut a year ago with an attack that scored 50 goals, among the top 10 in the league.
Sevilla lost some important players in the offseason but was able to remain competitive with signings like Silva.
Sports director Joaquin Caparros, who coached Sevilla from 2000-05, also brought in defenders Sergi Gomez and Joris Gnagnon, midfielders Roque Mesa, Maxime Gonalons and Ibrahim Amadou, goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik, and winger Aleix Vidal.
The departures included defender Clement Lenglet to Barcelona, Steven N'Zonzi to Roma, Joaquin Correa to Lazio and goalkeeper Sergio Rico to Fulham.
Sevilla impressed in its 3-0 rout of Real Madrid at Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium, and now it will have another chance to show its worth when it takes on Barcelona at Camp Nou after the international break.
Barcelona has drawn two straight at Camp Nou — 2-2 against Girona and 1-1 against Athletic Bilbao — but it hasn't lost to Sevilla at the venue since a Copa del Rey match in 2010. The last time Barcelona lost points to Sevilla at home was in 2011.
"The break will allow us to recover some of our gladiators," Machin said. "Hopefully everyone will be ready."
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