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Julen Lopetegui’s side have struggled to keep pace with Madrid in 2022 and we should see the table-toppers take another step closer to the title.
Back Real Madrid to beat Sevilla (+190)
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There is something about this Real Madrid team. After 75 minutes of Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final second leg against Chelsea, Carlo Ancelotti’s side were staring an ignominious defeat in the face. Leading 3-1 from the first leg thanks to Karim Benzema’s masterclass at Stamford Bridge, Madrid had conceded three times at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. With 15 minutes left on the clock, Chelsea were on course to advance to the semi-finals.
A three-goal lead was no less than the defending champions deserved. Chelsea were magnificent for much of Tuesday’s encounter. They were quicker, sharper, braver and better organized than Madrid, whose tactics seemed to center on sitting deep and hoping for the best. Los Blancos, who appeared to have one foot in the last four ahead of kick-off in the Spanish capital, were now on the brink of going out.
Then, up stepped Luka Modric and Benzema. The Croatian’s glorious cross allowed Rodrygo to level the scores on aggregate in the 80th minute, before Benzema grabbed the winner with a header in extra time. Not for the first time on a big occasion in Europe, Madrid showed an abundance of heart and character to find a way to get the job done.
The La Liga leaders will be on a high going into Sunday’s match in Seville. There are still some significant doubts over how good this side actually is, but no one can fault Madrid’s desire to win.
For a while it looked as though Sevilla really were capable of pushing Real Madrid all the way in the La Liga title race. With Barcelona and Atletico Madrid both struggling to challenge at the top of the division, it was left to Julen Lopetegui’s side to keep Madrid honest. Sevilla climbed into second place at the beginning of December and remained there for several months. By the middle of January, they were just five points behind Madrid having played one fewer match.
Perhaps it was always unrealistic to expect Sevilla to remain within touching distance of Ancelotti’s charges. Madrid have won the title 34 times; Sevilla have finished on top of the pile just once before. Los Blancos’ operating budget dwarfs that of los Nervionenses. Lopetegui is an astute head coach but he has considerably less trophy-winning experience than Ancelotti, a man who has won the league in Italy, England, France and Germany.
Sevilla head into the weekend 12 points adrift of top spot. They have been overtaken in second by Barcelona after a run of just one win in their last six outings. Sevilla have lost only three matches all season – the same number as Madrid. But they have been undone by a propensity to draw too many games: the scores have finished level 12 times in contests involving Sevilla.
Still, no one should lose sight of the fact that a top-four finish would be a good achievement for Lopetegui’s men, who may yet finish ahead of Atletico, the reigning champions. Second place is by no means out of the question either, even if Barcelona are now the strong favorites in that particular race.
As mentioned above, Sevilla do not lose many matches in La Liga. Their home record is particularly noteworthy, with no defeats in 15 fixtures so far this season. No team in the division has a better points-per-game ratio on their own patch than Sevilla, who have scored more than 72 per cent of their goals at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
Sevilla also have the advantage of additional preparation time: while Madrid were battling it out with Chelsea for 120 minutes on Tuesday, their upcoming opponents were sitting on the couch with their feet up.
No one should expect Madrid to have it easy on Sunday, but there is still reason to believe the table-toppers can emerge victorious. A win would, at the very least, keep them 12 points clear of the chasing pack at the summit of the standings – from there the Blancos would be on the verge of being confirmed as champions.
Secondly, Ancelotti will want to generate some positive momentum in the run-up to the Champions League semi-finals. In some ways, this game might actually suit them. Madrid might be liable to lose focus against Cadiz or Levante, but facing Sevilla will sharpen minds. Back Ancelotti’s men to come out on top in this one.
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|Sevilla vs Real Madrid Information|
|Teams||Sevilla vs Real Madrid|
|Location||Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Seville, Spain|
|Time||Sunday, 17 April 2022, 3.00 PM EDT|
|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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