After both clubs earned victories this past weekend, Barcelona and Real Madrid are level on points heading into La Liga’s final matches. Once directly involved with Spain’s top flight trophy chase earlier in the campaign, Sevilla and manager Jorge Sampaoli find themselves preparing for one of the season’s most important fixtures.
Sevilla Still Hold a Key Influence in La Liga Title Race
Los Nervionenses displayed strong form to begin the campaign, and performed well across various competitions. Currently sitting fourth in the league table, Sevilla also had excellent runs in the UEFA Champions League and Copa del Rey.
Talent like Wissam Ben Yedder and Pablo Sarabia provide an attacking spark, while former Stoke City midfielder Steven N’Zonzi has become one of the best defensive midfielders in the 2016-17 season. There have also been intelligent loan deals made, adding quality depth at key positions. Luciano Vietto, Stevan Jovetic and Samir Nasri have all contributed to the team’s success.
However, a difficult stretch at the beginning of March brought negative results, seeing Sampaoli’s squad slide out the league title race and eliminated from the Champions League at the hands of Leicester City.
But now, a different challenge awaits Sevilla Sunday evening in the form of travelling to the Santiago Bernabeu to face Real Madrid.
One match can make all the difference
Barcelona and Real Madrid are each on 84 points at the top of La Liga, with the Blaugrana possessing the superior goal-differential. But the Catalans do not fully control their own fate in the final weeks, thanks to their El Clasico rivals holding a game in-hand.
Barcelona and manager Luis Enrique will need help in the final three matches. Los Blancos will host Sevilla on Sunday, before visits to Celta Vigo (May 17) and Malaga (May 21) finish out their campaign. Meanwhile, Barcelona travel to Las Palmas and complete the season at home against Eibar.
A repeat performance
Where Jorge Sampaoli and Sevilla will be able to draw confidence from for Sunday will be in one of their true highlights of the year. Real Madrid’s 40-match unbeaten run came to a halt at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in a 2-1 January loss.
The home side were able to stifle much of the Madrid attack, until a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty-kick gave the visitors a 1-0 lead in the second half. But a Sergio Ramos own-goal and a stoppage-time winner from Jovetic secured a famous triumph.
In order to see the same type of result on Sunday, Sevilla’s defence must be disciplined and organised in a historically difficult environment.
Real Madrid may rest some players during the second leg of the Champions League semi-final round Wednesday. Holding a 3-0 aggregate advantage over city rivals Atletico Madrid, manager Zinedine Zidane should feel comfortable in achieving their objective.
But a re-scheduled visit to Celta Vigo awaits soon after their battle with Sevilla, with these congested final weeks providing a unique test.
Missed opportunities cost Sevilla a chance to remain in La Liga’s title hunt. But with a positive result on Sunday, the club could still have another memorable moment to live out this season.