We preview Sunday's La Liga clash between Atletcio Madrid and Sevilla.
Their contrasting fortunes in the midweek Champions League matches may have some bearing on the psychological states of these respective outfits. Sevilla lost a tempestuous encounter against a Leicester side that they are palpably better than. Sevilla are the proverbially restless fish in the limbo between big pond and little pond. They dominate Europa League, but every time they progress into the knockout stages of the Champions League they suffer from that inferiority complex. Atletico progressed after a professional - if unremarkable - 0-0 draw with Leverkusen. So Simeone’s side have the momentum and will want to reduce the gap behind 3rd placed Sevilla to just 2 points this weekend.
Atletico Madrid vs Sevilla | Sunday 19 March | Estadio Vicente Calderon |17:15
To Win (90 Mins)
Atletico 7/10 | Draw 28/10 | Sevilla 38/10
Atletico qualified for their fouth consecutive Champions League quarter-final this week. That’s an amazing achievement but the side has suffered domestically this season. It’s probably inevitable that Atletico would eventually go through a dip following three seasons of competing toe-to-toe with the superpowers of Real and Barcelona. They will want to reverse the result at Seviila, where Steven N’Zonzi dominated the game. Gabi should return alongside partner in crime Koke in the midfield, while Filipe Luis will take his spot at left-back after serving a Champions League suspension this week.
The interchanging of Carrasco, Saul, Correa and Griezmann will cause any side trouble. They will be coming up against a Sevilla side that will be demotivated from their European failure. Additionally, Sevilla’s 0-0 home draw with Leganes last weekend highlighted a distinct dip in form for Sevilla. Atletico also have the likes of Gamiero and Torres to call upon should they need more penetration.
Samir Nasri’s mental disintegration on Tuesday night - while mildly understandable - will probably cause Jorge Sampaoli to leave the mercurial Frenchman out the starting line-up. Nasri has always been susceptible to emotional overload and could prove a liability in this game. Vazquez should slot in seamlessly into the side while Jovetic will likely replace Ben Yedder up front. Ben Yedder was disappointing against Leicester and Jovetic’s physical strength will be essential in countering a notoriously muscular Atletico side. One wonders how the temperamental N’Zonzi will fare if things don’t quite go his way.
Escudero and Mercado will need to be disciplined against this Atletico side. Their natural instinct is to bomb forward, but perhaps discretion would prove useful this weekend. I just get the sense that something of the fight has been knocked out of this Sevilla side, similar to the way it always happens to Roma in Serie A around this time of year. You can’t deny the progress they made: last year they finished 36 points behind Atletico. Sampaoli made 11 signings and has revolutionized the squad in such a small space of time. But that Champions League exit will be a bitter pill to swallow.
Verdict: Atletico 7/10
It’s particularly hard in the wake of Champions League matches to accurately predict what type of match this will be . It could be ill-tempered and lack any flow, or Sevilla could play with a carefree abandon that makes a high-scoring spectacle possible. One thing that I think will be assured is an Atletico victory, as Simeone’s side look to build on the momentum that got midweek. They will be enthused and know that Sevilla are in a bleak place.
Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets