Tall order awaits with the arrival of Sevilla
Estadio José Zorrilla, Valladolid, Spain
Saturday 20th March, 2021
REAL VALLADOLID (16th, 26pts) vs SEVILLA F.C. (4th, 54pts)
A dangerous Sevilla side visit the José Zorrilla tonight, having overcome several recent pot-holes on the road which has seen them contest a gruelling five games in fourteen days.
Sitting fourth in the league, three points behind Real Madrid, Julen Lopetegui’s men are far from out of the title running. After a patchy start to the campaign saw them win just two of eight – scoring less than a goal a game on their way to a -2 goal difference and picking up 48% of the available points – Los Nervioneses have been almost unplayable on league duty. They went on to win 15 out of their subsequent 20 matches, only failing to beat Zidane’s Madrid (0-1), Real Valladolid (1-1), Real Betis (1-1), then losses to Barcelona (0-2) and – most surprisingly – struggling Elche (1-2) in consecutive matches. In the latter defeat, they were shut-out by the 19th-placed side until Luuk de Jong’s consolation goal in additional time. Then in the Champions League, they suffered a 2-4 aggregate loss to Borussia Dortmund in the Round of 16, despite Youssef En-Nesyri’s double in a 2-2 draw in Germany.
This was a culmination of a miserable eleven day stretch where they also crashed out of the Copa del Rey to Ronald Koeman’s side by a score of 0-3 in extra time at the semi-final stage. In a bad-tempered affair at Camp Nou, Lucas Ocampos saw a crucial penalty saved by Barça goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen as the Andalusian outfit squandered a two-goal lead from the first leg. To add insult to injury, Fernando and de Jong were both dismissed in the late stages of the match.
Since then, Sevilla appeared to have steadied the ship. The perfect tonic came in the shape of a derby win at home against eternal rivals Real Betis by a score of 1-0. This came courtesy of En-Nesyri’s first-half strike which ended his four-match drought in the league. Then they exacted revenge on Elche with a 2-0 win at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuan in their re-arranged Matchday 2 fixture. It is at home where they have prospered, claiming maximum points in ten out of 14 contests on their own soil in the league thus far. One of the reasons behind Sevilla’s solid play has been their defence. Following that rocky start to the campaign, they have conceded 12 goals in 20 outings, an average of 0.60 per match, and their overall record of 20 goals conceded is second only to table-toppers Atlético Madrid. Centre-back Joules Koundé’s stock has elevated astronomically this season on the back of several performances in LaLiga Santander and on Sevilla’s European travels. Having joined from Bordeaux in July 2019, the 22-year-old has piqued the interest of several clubs around Europe, forming a solid partnership with Brazilian Diego Carlos, a physically imposing defender whose mammoth appearance belies a clever reading of the game. Evergreen right-back Jesús Navas continues to ply his trade at right-back, missing just three of Sevilla’s league matches. The 35-year-old is a constant threat going forward, bombing down the flank, and has provided five assists.
The main beneficiary of Navas’ industry has been striker En-Nesyri, who has Navas to credit for four of his team-leading 15 league goals. The Moroccan striker has netted 21 times in domestic and continental competition and is one of the hottest properties in European football. He has found his rhythm scoring a total of four in each his last three matches (Dortmund, Real Betis and Elche). This is the second time this season he has achieved four goals in such a span, having done so between Matchdays 16 and 18, as well as netting four times in two outings in Matchdays 19 and 20.
The 23-year-old, who was signed from Leganés in January 2020, while the Madrid-based side were bottom of the table, has accounted for a little under 40% of the Andalusians goals this campaign. Dutch forward de Jong lies second with four strikes. Also on this total are Munir El Haddadi and Ocampos. The Argentinian winger enjoyed a fine start to life in Spain last season, scoring 14 times following his arrival from Olympique Marseille, but life has been a little more taxing in the 2020/21 campaign. Ocampos has yet to score from open play in the league with all four of his goals coming from the penalty spot but the better news for the 26-year-old is that he is just three goals shy of the total he scored for his former club (27) having played 53 matches less for Sevilla.
There is no doubting the pedigree of the six-time Europa League winners, and they hold the historical advantage of Real Valladolid with 44 wins, 21 draws and 28 losses in 93 matches played. The last time Pucela recorded a victory over Los Nervioneses was back in Matchday 14 of the 2012/13 season, in their return to Primera following winning the Segunda. Patrick Ebert gave Miroslav Djukic’s side the lead in the first minute, assisted by Óscar González who slid a neat pass into the path of the German, before he cut inside Fernando Navarro and slotted past Diego López. Eleven minutes later, the pair combined again as Ebert turned provider for Óscar’s seventh goal of the season, but there was an element of luck about it. Ebert took a pass from Omar Ramos and hit a shot which fell into the path of his team-mate who lifted the ball over the home keeper from close range. Some disorganised defending gave Manucho an opportunity to add a third, failing to clear a Pucela attack but López blocked well from the Angolan, as the visitors threatened to run rampant. Five minutea after the break, Manucho headed past his own goalkeeper Dani Hernández to halve his side’s lead but on 63 minutes Gary Medel was shown a second yellow to ensure the Andalusians would finish the match a man light. This helped Real Valladolid claim their second successive win over Sevilla – having beaten them in their last meeting two years earlier – but they would go on to draw four and lose four of their subsequent battles.
The last two matches between the sides have ended in a 1-1 draw. In Matchday 32 of the 2019/20 season, Kiko Olivas a first-half advantage when he headed home Míchel’s clipped free-kick into the box on 25 minutes after Pucela had weathered an early onslaught. Ocampos rescued a point with seven minutes to play, beating Jordi Masip from the penalty spot after Javi Sánchez had handled in the box from a corner. Earlier this season, Pucela exacted revenge to some extent. Ocampos’ penalty followed another questionable handball decision to push Sevilla ahead shortly after half an hour, but a rocket volley from Raúl Carnero – his first goal in LaLiga – left Yassine Bono helpless in the 83rd minute to earn a share of the spoils for Sergio’s side.
Sevilla midfielder Joan Jordán spent time on loan at Real Valladolid from Espanyol between July 2016 and Jun 2017, making 37 appearances for the Blanquivioletas. An in-depth article on Jordán was written by Alan Feehely and is very much worth a read. It can be found here.
Current Pucela central midfielder Roque Mesa played for Sevilla while on loan from Swansea City in January 2018 before signing a permanent deal that summer. He left Lopetegui’s side in August 2019 for a loan period at Leganés who were ultimately relegated at the end of that campaign and joined Real Valladolid in October last year. He has scored once in the league this season, a penalty against Eibar in Matchday 23’s 1-1 draw at Ipurúa.
Sevilla will be without Aleix Vidal, with the 31-year-old right-back out with a hamstring injury sustained earlier this month. Question marks remain over the fitness of central midfielder Fernando and winger Ocampos.
Alongside Kiko Olivas, Canero, and Pablo Hervías in defence, Real Valladolid are waiting on the availability of Moroccan centre-back Jawad El-Yamiq who picked up a knock in last week’s 0-0 draw with Osasuna. Midfielder Jota misses out, as does striker Marcos André.