All eyes will be on the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium on Sunday evening as second placed Real Madrid host fourth placed Sevilla with the LaLiga title race moving into its conclusive phase.
With leaders Atletico de Madrid visiting third placed Barcelona just 24 hours earlier, and all four teams having just three games left to play afterwards, the weekend’s action will go a long way to deciding who wins the LaLiga Santander title this season.
Defending champions Madrid know what it takes to come through a tight title race, and Zinedine Zidane’s side have been outstanding through recent months, coming through various injuries, COVID 19 positives and the extra workload of reaching the Champions Leauge semi-finals. Saturday’s comfortable 2-0 victory over CA Osasuna also makes it 10 wins, two draws and just one defeat in their last 13 LaLiga home games for Los Blancos.
Centre-back Eder Militao was the star of the show against Osasuna, heading his first LaLiga goal, with fellow Brazilian Casemiro wrapping up the scoring late on. Injuries to other defenders including club captain Sergio Ramos have opened up an opportunity for Militao, 23, who has been excellent in recent weeks. Ramos, 35, has recovered from a knee injury however and could play his first LaLiga game since mid-March against his old club Sevilla.
Also fit again is superstar Belgian forward Eden Hazard, who looked sharp last weekend as he made his first LaLiga start since January. A much more regular contributor for Real Madrid through the season has been Karim Benzema, whose run and pass set up Casemiro’s goal versus Osasuna, meaning he has been involved in an incredible 14 goals (11 scored, 3 assisted) in his 11 LaLiga games.
Sevilla come into Saturday’s game as the outsiders in the title race, but as the in-form team in LaLiga Santander. After a wobble in early March when they were eliminated from both the Champions League and Copa del Rey, the Andalusians have been on the charge in LaLiga with seven wins in eight games.
Youssef En-Nesyri has been in superb form in attack, and his superbly taken winner at Levante recently took the Morocco international to 17 goals in LaLiga already this season. Young French defender Jules Kounde has been immaculate in defence, Joan Jordan outstanding in midfield, and it is no coincidence that the team’s return to form coincided with Argentine winger Lucas Ocampos coming back from injury. Also outstanding recently has been January signing Papu Gomez, who has settled into a crucial playmaking role in the team.
Saturday’s game will surely be special for Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui, whose short spell as Real Madrid coach in 2018 did not go as planned. Lopetegui lasted just 10 LaLiga games as coach at the Santiago Bernabeu, winning only four and suffering a painful 3-0 defeat away at Sevilla – where the Basque tactician is now firmly at home.
Sevilla might be happy that the Santiago Bernabeu is under renovation at the moment, given the Andalusian team have lost each of their last 11 LaLiga visits, including a 2-1 defeat last season. Madrid also came out on top of a tight encounter in 2020-21’s first meeting in early December, which was decided by an own-goal by Sevilla goalkeeper Bono, under pressure from Real Madrid attacker Vinicius Junior.
Another nervy encounter is quite possible on Sunday evening, given all that is on the line for both teams. Real Madrid have the experience and home advantage, but Sevilla are excited about the chance of a first LaLiga trophy since 1946. Whatever happens could end up being decisive in this most exciting of LaLiga title races.