Real Madrid will face Sevilla at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday in a rematch from their September experience when Los Blancos took home all three points after a gritty evening of soccer at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
After their Spanish Supercup triumphs over Valencia and Atletico Madrid, which showcased two different sides of how Real Madrid can play soccer this season, Los Blancos are riding high. But they will need to face a tough opponent in former manager Julen Lopetegui’s Sevilla on Saturday.
Zinedine Zidane’s side showed they have what it takes to beat Sevilla, as they defeated their Matchweek 20 competitions 1-0 in September, courtesy of a crucial Karim Benzema away target. Benzema is currently dealing with a hamstring injury, Sergio Ramos picked up an ankle injury, and Fede Valverde is suspended. And Eden Hazard remains out with an ankle injury of his own.
So Real will need all hands on deck on Saturday against Sevilla, who are fourth in the table and looking dangerous.
Here are 3 players Zidane must pay special attention to on Sevilla for this week’s game.
There hasn’t been a more impactful player in the Sevilla lineup this season than Lucas Ocampos, who gave Ferland Mendy all he could handle in their previous meeting.
Ocampos was by far the most dangerous player on the pitch for Sevilla, and while Mendy, as one of the best defensive left-backs in the world, was up to the task, it won’t get any easier this weekend.
He also tops the team with 2.5 dribbles per game and 1.7 fouls drawn per match. The man has the ability to create opportunities from nothing and is a constant thorn in the side of his enemies.
Start looking for him to give Real difficulties, especially when he unites with veteran right-back Jesus Navas, who has three assists this year.
Although Ever Banega had an eerily quiet outing when Real Madrid last confronted Sevilla, the Europa League giants’ main creative influence still made his presence felt with three important passes; he was the only player on the team with numerous key passes.
Actual held Banega in check in September, and holding him in check on Saturday will once more be a key to victory for Zidane. Without Fede Valverde, Casemiro and Toni Kroos might need to be at peak condition defensively. The battle between Kroos and Banega could get interesting.
This season, Banega is Sevilla’s leading aid provider with six, which is double Navas’ output in second place on the group. He completes more than 85% of his passes, too, despite being the only player on Sevilla with more than two key passes per game.
If Real can keep Banega in check, they can starve the resistance of the best chances.
Munir El Haddadi
Even though the former Barcelona prospect has played in only about half the minutes as regular starter Luuk de Jong, he should clearly overtake the Dutch ahead as the starter in Julen Lopetegui’s lineup. Aside from aerial duels, de Jong supplies nothing of value to Sevilla’s assault and is one of the worst strikers in the league, particularly from a goal-scoring standpoint. And Sevilla need goals: only Lucas Ocampos has carried a true threat in that regard.
Whether Munir El Haddadi starts or not, he is someone to focus on. Munir only has two goals this season, but he’s gotten himself into dangerous places on a constant basis and could break out in the second half of this season. Furthermore, those two goals have come in just 578 minutes of play. And at the Europa League, Munir has an astounding five goals in under 400 minutes of play.
Munir is a man to watch. He could be a real X-Factor for Sevilla at the Bernabeu this weekend, and if he seizes this opportunity to shine on the big stage, there could be no looking back. Real Madrid must prepare for him since he’s much more talented than the meandering de Jong, who was outside abysmal in their September experience.