Real Madrid vs Sevilla | Real Madrid’s Carlo Ancelotti will lead his star-studded group of Champions League winner versus Unai Emery and Europa League champions Sevilla. While there are many questions about who will start for Real Madrid and what the formation will be, Sevilla will be facing their own dilemma as they will look to replace former star Ivan Rakitic’s production given his move to Barcelona. Miran Saric takes a look.
How will Real Madrid incorporate all the stars?
As with almost every summer in the past 10-15 years, Real Madrid fans will be going into the season wondering how their team will look after the acquisition of at least one big name star. This summer, two bona fide stars in the form of Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez have joined the club and both will certainly look to make an immediate impact. Carlo Ancelotti has a welcome dilemma at his hands with such a plethora of world class players, but will there be pressure to play the new guys over the old guard in the 2014 UEFA Super Cup.
Last season, Real Madrid started the league campaign in a 4-2-3-1 with Isco slotting in as the #10 behind Karim Benzema, in between Cristiano Ronaldo and, eventually, Gareth Bale. Because of injury to Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira and Luka Modric were slotted behind the attackers with the defense being the standard Marcelo-Sergio Ramos-Pepe-Alvaro Arbeloa/Daniel Carvajal. As the season progressed and as injuries came up, this formation shifted into a 4-3-3 on attack and a stifling 4-4-2 on defense.
For the cup game against Sevilla, because of players returning from World Cup break, we might not see Real Madrid’s most optimal formation but all indications are that Carlo Ancelotti will opt for a 4-2-3-1 with it likely shifting into a 4-4-2 without the ball (as seen in Real Madrid’s pre-season games). Normally, Angel Di Maria would get the start but he just recently arrived to training and isn’t a fit for the 4-2-3-1 so expect to see the standard frontline of Benzema, Ronaldo and Bale with new star James Rodriguez as the #10 and facilitating play. Modric will play deeper and will look to be the shuttler from defense to attack while World Cup winner Kroos will serve as the metronome from deep. Since it is a cup game, Ancelotti will start Coentrao alongside Ramos and Pepe, with Raphael Varane potentially getting the nod over Pepe, and Daniel Carvajal bombing forward on the right.
They key for Madrid will be retaining their shape and compactness when they don’t have the ball. As shown in games against Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid, the 4-4-2 clogs the pockets of space against opposition and prevents against the weakness of the 4-2-3-1 of leaving too much space for the opposition to exploit. Ronaldo has not shown a great deal of initiative in tracking back so he will remain further up the pitch with Benzema, while Rodriguez will likely slide to the left side of the pitch to form the first bank of four with Modric, Kroos and Bale. With the 4-4-2, it provides significant defensive coverage while still providing enough numbers to break on the counter, something Madrid will surely look to exploit.
Can Sevilla keep up with Real Madrid, after having lost their key man?
Sevilla would have come into this game as the underdog no matter what. Even though they managed to steal points from Real Madrid last season, they also allowed Madrid to score seven goals against them in one game alone. That, coupled with Madrid’s signings and Sevilla losing their best player in Ivan Rakitic to Barcelona, makes this a very tough prospect for Sevilla. However, hope isn’t completely lost for Sevilla as they have an excellent manager in Unai Emery leading them.
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As mentioned, Sevilla’s biggest challenge in this game and coming season is to replace Rakitic’s stellar form which they enjoyed last season as he racked up 15 goals and 15 assists for them in all competitions. However, Sevilla fans shouldn’t lose all hope for the offense as Carlos Bacca (21 goals) and Kevin Gameiro (20 goals) lead a very strong frontline. Additionally, new man Iago Aspas, on loan from Livepool, will look to replace Rakitic’s production in attack.
Sevilla will need to make sure their offense is in full flow to mask a defense which was middle-of-the-pack in terms of goals allowed in the league last season, and that was with Moreno playing (his imminent move to Liverpool casts doubts over his participating in Cardiff). Sevilla isn’t amazing at holding on to possession, but they do play fast and aggressive while generating many shots on goal. They were also one of the finest set piece scoring teams in La Liga last season with 18 goals coming in dead play, but much of that was due to Rakitic’s swerving free kicks and pinpoint deliveries so it remains to be seen how they will come without him.
Where will the game be won?
It seems almost like taking the easy way out to answer this, but it’s Madrid’s attacking four versus Sevilla’s back line. Alberto Moreno’s possible absence leaves a massive hole in Sevilla’s defense for Gareth Bale to exploit. Given Bale’s preseason form, it might be difficult for Sevilla to contain him even if Moreno is fully available to play.
In La Liga last season, Sevilla gave up the 9th most shots per game at 13.2 while Real Madrid were top of the league in terms of shots at 19.6 and top of the league in shots on target at 7.9 per game. Playing with an aggressive 4-2-3-1 as Sevilla does leaves them vulnerable at the back to a counterattack and as there isn’t a more deadly counterattacking team in the world than Real Madrid, expect to see Madrid form two banks of four without the ball and quickly push forward once its won with new playmaker starlets Rodriguez and Kroos spraying the ball to the BBC. While Sevilla certainly has the ability to spring an upset on Madrid, the loss of Rakitic severely diminishes the chances of their attack being able to keep up with Los Merengues’ potent frontline.
Written by Miran Saric. Follow him on Twitter @therealbozz
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