19:45 GMT, Sunday 25th February, Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, (Seville, Spain), Sky Sports Football
Sevilla have been impressive in this season’s Champions League and will be desperate to return to that stage in 2018/19. The Andalusians still trail fourth-placed Valencia by seven points, but are showing signs that they are recovering their form in the league. A 5-1 defeat at the hands of Eibar at the beginning of this month saw them in danger of dropping out of the top six.
Since that humiliation, however, they have won back-to-back La Liga games, reached the final of the Copa del Rey and held Manchester United to a goalless draw in the Champions League. If Vincenzo Montella can keep his side playing at this level, then they may well be challenging for the top-four come the end of the season.
For much of this season, Barcelona have appeared to be processing towards title glory. Atletico Madrid have, however, refused to give up the chase and are not yet completely out of the picture. Los Rojiblancos are seven points behind the Catalan giants going into this weekend’s fixtures and will be determined to keep up the pressure with yet another win.
Diego Simeone’s side have won their last six games in all competitions and have not lost in the league since December 22nd. With their early March meeting against the league-leaders on the horizon, they cannot afford to slip-up.
Last Time Out
Sevilla 0-0 Manchester United (UEFA Champions League-Last 16-First Leg)
Sevilla registered an impressive performance against Europa League Champions Manchester United. The home side dominated possession and had 25 shots on target in contrast to United’s six.
The Andalusians were far superior in the midfield, with the likes of Ever Banega and Stephen N’Zonzi looking comfortable under the pressure of the occasion.
If not for the endless heroics of David de Gea, Sevilla would surely have won the game and they will take a great deal of confidence heading into the second leg.
Atletico Madrid 1-0 (5-1 on aggregate) (UEFA Europa League-Round of 32-Second Leg)
Diego Simeone’s side approached this tie in the knowledge that progression was all but assured following their 4-1 triumph in the away leg.
Atleti never looked under threat and an early goal from Kevin Gameiro put effectively put the tie to bed after only seven minutes.
Lokomotiv Moscow await Atletico Madrid in the last 16 and they will surely consider themselves amongst the favourites for the trophy.
Vincenzo Montella has few injury problems to contend with this weekend, with right back Sebastien Corchia (groin) the only serious doubt.
There are concerns over the fitness if centre back Simon Kjaer (back) but he is still likely to feature on Sunday night.
Atletico Madrid Lineup
Diego Simeone has been blessed with an almost completely injury-free squad for most of this season.
Centre back Stefan Savic (thigh) and left back Lucas Hernandez (thigh) are both concerns and may miss out against Sevilla.
Key Battle: Ever Banega (Sevilla) vs Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid)
Ever Banega stood tall against Manchester United on Wednesday night, demonstrating once again his ability to compete at the very highest level. The 29-year-old has enjoyed his return to Sevilla, having taken a one-season sabbatical to Inter Milan last season.
Banega was everything and everywhere against a side who are second in the English Premier League, breaking up play as easily as he sparked dangerous attacking moves.
He appears to be relishing playing alongside Stephen N’Zonzi, who allows him the freedom to push forward when required, enabling the Argentinian to show his very best qualities.
Atletico Madrid are famous for their structured approach, yet they often rely on moments of individual genius to make the difference in tight games. Saul Niguez is a player more than capable of turning a game on its head.
The 23-year-old has matured this season and there are very few attacking phases that do not go through the feet of the Spanish international.
He is the creative catalyst of this Atleti side and helps ensure that the likes of Antoine Griezmann and Diego Costa receive the service upon which they thrive.
Sevilla unbeatable at home-Atletico undefeatable away
Sunday’s game will see a clash between two teams with brilliant records. Sevilla have lost only once in their last 24 home games in La Liga, their only defeat coming in January at the hands of Real Betis. Atletico Madrid, on the other hand, have lost only once in their last 23 away games, conceding only 14 goals in the process.
Something will have to give this weekend. Atletico Madrid’s counterattacking approach lends itself particularly well to away games and they will hope to exploit the attacking instincts of this Sevilla outfit. The crowd at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan have a huge part to play under the Sunday night lights and will hope to inspire their team to victory.
Atletico Madrid’s Chinese exodus
Diego Simeone has complained in the past about the distraction Chinese Super League transfer window being open at this crucial point in the European season. It is looking increasingly likely that Fernando Torres will make the move East and there is also interest over the availability of Yannick Carrasco.
If Torres does leave Atleti then it would be a shame for him to leave under a cloud. He has been a devoted servant of the club, racking up over 300 appearances for his boyhood club. There will be plenty of chances for him to play a role in this season if he ends up staying.
Atleti are involved in a title race, whilst simultaneously harbouring ambitions of progressing deep into the Europa League knock-out stages. Sticking it out for a few more months could see Torres have one last shot at glory before he moves on.
Prediction: Sevilla 1-1 Atletico Madrid
It is difficult to see either side running away with this game and it should be a high-quality affair. An intriguing battle between Sevilla’s instinctive attack and Atleti’s organised defence will be fascinating to observe. Stylistic concerns aside, this is a huge fixture for both sides and a loss would come as a real set-back. The ‘must-not-lose’ dynamic may well see the game result in a draw.
Will Atletico Madrid keep up the pressure on league-leaders Barcelona?
Let us know in the comments section below…
Want to share your opinion? Why not Write For Us?