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Back Sevilla to beat Atletico Madrid on Saturday. The Nervionenses head into this game in better form and their record at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan is excellent.
Real Madrid are on fire in La Liga right now. They have won seven games in a row and taken 25 points from the last 27 available. After a 2-1 defeat by Espanyol at the start of October, Carlo Ancelotti’s side looked to be in trouble. They have responded to that setback in exemplary fashion, and have now opened up an eight-point lead at the summit of the standings. We have not even reached the midway point of the campaign yet, but it is already difficult to envisage anyone catching the Blancos.
Sevilla are currently closest to Madrid. They would move to within five points of top spot if they win their game in hand, although there is no guarantee of that since it comes against Barcelona. It would be premature to definitively rule Julen Lopetegui’s charges out of the title race, but Unibet’s odds of +1400 on a Sevilla triumph accurately demonstrate the scale of the task in front of them.
Not that there would be any shame in Sevilla failing to win the title. After all, this is a club which has only once been crowned champions of Spain – and that was way back in 1946. Finishing second would be a huge accomplishment. Sevilla have not finished as runners-up in the top flight since 1957.
They might not finish there this season, but Sevilla are certainly going strong. They head into the weekend on the back of consecutive 1-0 victories over Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao. Before that they were only narrowly beaten by Real Madrid. No team in the division has conceded as few goals as Sevilla. Lopetegui is doing a fine job at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan.
While Lopetegui will be delighted with how things have gone in his team’s first 16 games of the campaign, Diego Simeone will be disappointed. Back in the summer Atletico Madrid were widely fancied to retain the La Liga title. Barcelona were in a state of flux and Real Madrid were under new management following Zinedine Zidane’s departure. Atletico’s sense of stability was supposed to work in their favor.
In fact, the Colchoneros have underwhelmed. Their 2-0 defeat by Real Madrid last weekend leaves them 13 points behind their rivals, albeit having played one fewer game. After managing to strike the right balance between attack and defense last term, Simeone is struggling to do the same this time around.
Atletico are not as secure at the back as usual. Jan Oblak, one of the best goalkeepers in the world, is going through a sticky patch. Individual errors in defense have further undermined Atletico’s title tilt. One clean sheet in their last five games speaks for itself. And although the champions have the third-best scoring record in the division, there is still a feeling that Simeone is finding it difficult to get the best out of the individual attackers at his disposal.
The title is probably gone, but Atletico are in the knockout stage of the Champions League and are among the favorites to win the Copa del Rey. All is not lost this season, but Simeone has work to do if Atletico are to recapture the sort of form they were showing this time 12 months ago.
It is hard not to be impressed by Sevilla’s defensive fortitude. They conceded 33 goals last season, with only the two Madrid clubs outdoing them in that regard. That average of 0.87 goals conceded per match is down to just 0.69 this term. It is almost Christmas and Sevilla have only let in 11 goals. The most they have conceded in an individual match is three, but that came in a 5-3 victory over Levante.
That scoreline was an aberration for Sevilla this season. Last weekend’s 1-0 triumph over Athletic Bilbao was a better representation of what Loptegui’s side are about. A cagey match yielded just one goal, and although Sevilla’s performance was unremarkable, they showed grit, resolve and character to emerge victorious from San Mames, one of the toughest grounds to visit in La Liga.
Atletico will not find it easy to break Sevilla’s backline down, especially as that is a known weakness of Simeone’s side. Lopetegui will probably be happy to allow Atletico plenty of possession before attempting to hit them on the counter-attack. That strategy will be aided by the two teams’ respective positions in the table: fourth-placed Atletico need to go for the win, whereas Sevilla are under less pressure to pick up all three points.
That could work in their favor, particularly if Atletico continue to make sloppy mistakes at the back. Sevilla have the second-best points-per-home-game record in La Liga. Back them to win again on their own patch this weekend.
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|Sevilla vs Atletico Madrid Information|
|Teams||Sevilla vs Atletico Madrid|
|Location||Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan|
|Time||Saturday, 18 December 2021, 15.00 PM EST|
|How to watch||ESPN|
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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