La Liga 17/18 Gameweek 22: Eibar vs Sevilla– Lineups, Preview and Prediction
Sevilla visit the Basque Country on Saturday, needing a win to keep them in touch with the top four.
12:00 GMT, Saturday 3rd February, Municipal de Ipurua (Eibar, Spain) Sky Sports Football
Eibar are enjoying their fourth season in the top flight and are continuing to show evidence that they are more than capable of competing at this level. The Basque minnows are eighth in the table, only four points of sixth-placed Sevilla.
Jose Luis Mendilibar’s side have experienced a slight drop in form of late, having failed to win in their last three games. They are well-placed heading into the business end of the season and beating Sevilla on Saturday would give them a real confidence that they can aim for a remarkable top six finish.
The visitors are currently enduring their own run of poor form in the league. Sevilla have won only once in their last seven La Liga fixtures. This dire return has left them in sixth, five points behind fourth-placed Real Madrid and only one point ahead of seventh-placed Celta Vigo.
For a side who have featured in the Champions League for the last three seasons and have won the Europa League three times in the last five years, missing out on European football would come as a real blow. Sevilla’s form in the Copa del Rey has been in stark contrast to their domestic performances, however, and their recent progression at the expense of Atletico Madrid will go a long way to restoring confidence in Andalusia.
Last Time Out
Athletic Bilbao 1-1 Eibar (La Liga)
Eibar were fortunate to escape with a point away in their Basque derby encounter against Athletic Bilbao. The visitors controlled the majority of possession and had almost double the number of shots as the hosts, yet struggled to create many clear-cut opportunities.
After a tense first-half, Aritz Aduriz scored his ninth league goal of the season in the 50th minute, thanks to a wonderful ball from Inaki Williams.
Athletic Bilbao continued to look dangerous throughout, but Kike Garcia was able to take advantage of some lapse defending after 73 minutes to give Eibar a valuable draw.
Leganes 1-1 Sevilla (Copa Del Rey Semi-Final First Leg)
Sevilla faced a tricky trip to Leganes, who had themselves recently knocked out Real Madrid in the previous round. The match was mostly even and sets up an engrossing second-leg meeting.
Luis Muriel’s 21st minute strike gave the away side a useful lead heading into the break following some nice work from Antonio Sarabia.
Ten minutes after the interval the scores were level, as Dimitris Siovas took advantage of some insecure goalkeeping from Sergio Rico.
Vincenzo Montella’s side have a tough task on their hands to progress but will be delighted to have come away with what could be a vital away goal.
Jose Luis Mendilibar continues to have to deal with absences to key players. Pedro Leon (knee) is close to making his return from an injury suffered as far back as August, but will be kept out of Saturday’s game.
Defender Paulo Oliveira (hamstring) will also be missing with injury, as will long-term absentees, midfielder Fran Rico (knee) and forward Sergi Enrich (knee).
Vincenzo Montella has some tough calls to make on Saturday as a red card suspension for Gabriel Mercado will necessitate a defensive reshuffle.
Jesus Navas has been doing a sound job filling in at right-back at points this season and may well be asked to perform the same role again this weekend. The returning Simon Kjaer may be fit to start at centre-back, but has only recently returned to training.
Replacement right-back Sebastien Corchia (groin) should be fit enough to return to the bench.
Key Battle: Kike Garcia (Eibar) vs Luis Muriel (Sevilla)
28-year-old Kike Garcia has played himself into the first team following some important performances recently. The striker has been named man-of-the-match in his last two games, where he also scored two goals to secure his team important draws.
The former Spanish youth international struggled at Middleborough in the English Championship, yet seems to have found a new lease of life upon his return to the country of his birth.
Luis Muriel was rarely employed as a starting striker for much of the first half of this season. He has, however, found favour under Montella and has taken his opportunities well. The 26-year-old has scored three goals in his last four games in all competitions and showed signs of improvement in his all-round game in a brilliant performance against Espanyol last month.
Muriel is far more than just a goal-threat and his ability as a provider gives his side another dimension that has brought them greater success over recent weeks.
Can Eibar maintain their enviable home record?
Eibar will be filled with confidence as they emerge from the tunnel in front of their home support on Saturday. They have lost only once in their last eight league games at the Ipurua Municipal Stadium. It may be the smallest ground in La Liga, with a capacity of a little over 7,000 but has been a consistently good hunting-ground for Eibar this season.
If any side are going to break this run of form then recent history suggests that it might just be Sevilla. In their three seasons in La Liga, Eibar have never beaten Saturday’s opponents, drawing three times and losing four, in their seven games so far. Mendilibar himself has a poor career record against Sevilla, winning only three times in sixteen encounters against the Andalusians.
A good transfer window for Sevilla?
Montella made three successful late moves for players in key positions in the final days of the January transfer window. First came full back Miguel Layun, who moved on loan from Porto. The utility player should provide useful defensive cover, yet needs time to settle having made only two starts in Liga NOS this season. Midfield cover was then sealed in the form of Roque Mesa on loan from Swansea, though it is unlikely that Mesa will provide much competition for the likes of Stephen N’Zonzi and Ever Banega.
Everton striker Sandro was also brought in on a loan deal until the end of the season to provide attacking back-up. The striker looked poor in England but has history in Spain and should hopefully readjust quickly to life in La Liga.
All three of the signings are to provide cover and none are likely to play a key role this season. Sevilla fans are unlikely to be satisfied that the reinforcements are actually improving the squad.
Prediction: Eibar 1-2 Sevilla
The home side have a proud home record to defend, yet injuries appear to be taking their toll and Eibar looked overwhelmed at times against Athletic Bilbao. Inspired by their cup success, Montella’s Sevilla look greatly improved and should have the firepower to see them through on Saturday.
Will Eibar continue their impressive home form?
Let us know in the comments section below…