Sevilla has a new coach that is an old hand at this La Liga business: Marcelino. That’s a man whose accomplishments with small clubs isn’t to be laughed about: a 6th placed finish with Racing Santander alongside successful promotion campaigns with Recreativo Huelva and Real Zaragoza. He’s had trouble at Zaragoza in the Primera, but who there hasn’t? Now he’s at Sevilla and appears to be putting together another solid season. They’ve never dropped below 6th in the table so far this season and are currently 1 of only 3 teams to remain without a loss. They’re only 2 points behind Barça and they’ve beaten both Málaga and Valencia.
And yet and yet…I can never really get over how I predict draws or close wins or even a loss against them and then Barça slices them into a thousand pieces, with Messi scoring 32 goals or something absurd like that. They’re 0W-3D-0L 2GF 2GA away from home, after all. 12 of their 15 points have come at home, including those wins against Málaga and Valencia (2-1 and 1-0, respectively). But they’re Sevilla! They’re good! They had Seydou and Dani and they’ve still got Kanoute, Negredo, and Jesus Navas. Sure, Negredo, Perotti, and Spahic are all injured, but they boast a solid squad including Martín Cáceres, Fernando Navarro, and Manu del Moral.
Just to get this out of the way, here’s their squad for the match: Palop, Javi Varas, Coke, Cáceres, Alexis, Fazio, Escudé, Navarro, Luna, Medel, Rakitic, Campaña, Trochovski, Jesús Navas, Armenteros, Manu del Moral, Luis Alberto, Kanouté.
That can be a lethal bunch of players, there’s no doubt about it, but without both Perotti and Negredo, they’re lacking on the offensive end. Negredo has the aerial skills to get into the mix and cause problems while Perotti has the footskills and speed on the wing to get behind our forward-thinking wingsbacks. Navas can do the same, of course, but without a counterweight on the other side, it might be easier to lock him down and suffocate his supply lines.
Part of their offensive problems might be that they start, according to the tactical formations supplied in Soccernet’s Gamecast, with just 10 men on the field (click on tactical formation and starting formation). Seems kind of important to put out 11, unless, I guess, if you’re Mourinho and you prefer to play with 10. Which you’re totally allowed to do, I’m sure. What’s the ref going to do? “Coach, I’m going to send someone off if you don’t put out enough players.” Even Marca got it right.
Whether they play a 4-4-1-1 or a 4-2-3-1, I think there will be some serious adjustments at Perotti’s absence. Negredo is “replaceable” in that you can stick in Kanoute and Manu de Moral without losing shape, though Negredo is definitely better at being the point man. Last year in Sevilla the introduction of Freddie Kanoute changed everything and it ended up 1-1 through Jesus Navas. Perhaps it should be noted that Negredo delivered the assist. Incidentally, do you know what else happened in that game? This.
Anyway, Barça has another piece of its collective puzzle back now that Cesc has been given the medical green light. That’s good news, though the team is functioning rather smoothly without him, Alexis, Pique, and the long-term loss of Afellay, which seems incredible until you realize that Barça won the league and Champions League last year without 2 of those 4. And that seems incredible given their talent levels and the amount of contribution they’ve given so far (Alexis perhaps not so much, but a goal in 2 games is pretty decent, especially when he got injured in one of those game and obviously couldn’t finish it). But having more people that Guardiola trusts to line up in midfield and up front will help. Pedro looks a bit rusty and Fabregas can step into that role while Mascherano continues to cover for Pique. It’s not that Fontas is bad, which he isn’t, but Puyol+Fontas doesn’t have the same ring to it, especially now that we know how well Masche can play in the back and Guardiola is willing to go with three creative midfielders (Xavi, Iniesta, Thiago) in the midfield meaning Busi can get a rest when he needs it.
Maybe we take it slow and Pedro doesn’t get a rest, but instead gets subbed out in favor of Fabregas, though Guardiola seems convinced that Villa can’t physically hack it for a full 90 minutes and always gives him the ol’ time wasting routine instead. I haven’t seen enough to be convinced that Cesc and Messi have come to an understanding about who is to take up what space, but the results are obviously pretty positive and that’s hard to argue with. Still, watching them makes me a bit crazy when they almost run into each other and draw defenders into their respective orbits, especially if someone has just created that space for them.
So, how do we roll out? I say this way: Valdes, Alves, Mascherano, Puyol, Abidal, Busi, Xavi, Iniesta, Villa, Messi, Pedro.
I’ve heard whisperings from the internets that some people don’t care for Masche + Puyi (Puyerano?)–or rather that they prefer something else–but there’s no better pairing available to us. So that’s what we’re going to see. Pttth. And then why not start Cesc? We might see it, but he’s not fully match fit and we don’t need to replace him after 45 minutes; I’d rather see Pedro start and Cesc get 30 minutes. Abidal over Adriano or Maxwell all day all night in my book (remember, if King Eric scores, the rule is that you have to do an Irish Carbomb…or, if you don’t drink, you can do…uh…a Shirley Temple with a shot of Espresso in it? That sounds horrific. Someone come up with something quick!) and while I’m not necessarily his biggest fan, Busi is our best DM at the moment.
Okay, I brought this up, so I’m going to go for it. Busi is a good player. He’s got fantastic technique and is, in fact, the best rondo player we seem to have. But I’ve been very disappointed in his unwillingness to shoot recently. Against Plzen he had an open shot from 25 yards out that any other player on the team would have taken, with the possible exception of Valdes but probably not, yet he passed it up in favor of hesitating. That obviously closes his passing lane and destroyed the meticulously put-together attack. Yet he also released Messi a couple of times and should be commended for his adherence to tactical doctrine. With the exception of the Valencia game, I’ve been impressed with him this year. But he was horrific in the Valencia game, perhaps because of that tactical adherence that limited his mobility, and he needs to learn from that. Sevilla may very well throw Kanoute into the midfield mix and he has to be able to cope with multiple assignments on a single play.
Yet I’m not convinced about Sevilla because they lack a strong point man. Sure, Manu de Moral can put a hurtin’ on you, but he’s no Negredo and that could cost them dear, especially without Perotti to patrol the flanks and give them a quick counter attack.
So, prediction? You want a prediction? Okay fine. Official Prediction: 3-1, goals by Messi (2) and Cesc. All 3 assisted by Xavi. Because I want the fantasy points. I’m in 20th place okay?