LA LIGA | SEVILLA - ATLÉTICO
Koke returns from injury to fortress Sánchez Pizjuán
Sevilla are unbeaten at home in 27 matches. Tonight’s match (7pm) promises to be a battle of the strikers: Bacca (14 goals), Griezmann (14) and Mandzukic (12).
From Germany to the Sánchez Pizjuán with a Champions League spot in the thoughts of both sides, and very different outcomes from their European travels. Sevilla beat Mönchengladbach, looked good and went through. Atleti had one of their worst nights of the season against Leverkusen, have put their Champions League campaign in doubt and opened the door to the first murmurings of doubt since Simeone put the club back among the big boys. Fifth against third, separated by eight points, a win for the visitors would make the gap almost insurmountable, but...
But winning at the Sánchez Pizjúan has become something of an odyssey. Sevilla haven’t been beaten at home since March 2014, by Betis in the Europa League. The last to do so in the Liga was Barcelona, on 9 February. Since then they’ve invited 27 guests in and always picked up at least a point. He sometimes overacts and his choice of metaphors is poor, but Emery is a great coach.
If the Basque coach is lacking something it’s against the big sides. In the first half of the league, Atleti wiped the floor with his side 4-0 in Madrid, in a game dominated by Koke (goal and assist). The home-grown player returns today after three games out injured. His absence left a huge hole in the team, showing how much they missed him by recording two defeats.
The return of Koke and Saúl’s injury will let Simeone rest Arda and give a chance to Raúl García, whose progressive loss of importance has been notable. Siqueira is also out and Ansaldi continues to add to his personal X-File, so Jesús Gámez will come back as provisional left back, a position he struggles with and which a revived Reyes could take advantage of.
There will also be a battle of the strikers. Bacca (14 goals), Griezmann (14) and Mandzukic (12) are the top scorers in the Primera outwith Madrid and Barça. Sergio Rico, who has been wobbly as Beto’s substitute, is facing a double or nothing situation, while Moyá, who has been getting worse after starting well, needs to chase away the shadow of Oblak. Courtois’ shadow is another thing, of course.