11:00 GMT, Sunday 18th March, Estadio Butarque (Madrid, Spain) Sky Sports Mix
Since the turn of the year, Leganes have won only three of their 12 La Liga fixtures. Asier Garitano’s side are still 13 points clear of the relegation zone, having made a strong start to the season which has given them enough of a buffer to avoid serious trouble. They are, however, in danger of slipping uncomfortably close to the bottom of the table.
Los Legionaries have won only once in their last ten games in all competitions and are looking particularly flaky in defence, having conceded 12 goals in their last six matches. A tough final ten fixtures lie ahead and they will have to improve quickly if they are to secure their ambitions of a mid-table finish.
Sevilla are currently on a high following their unexpected triumph over Manchester United in the Champions League. Their position in the league, however, is looking slightly less optimistic and they are unlikely to achieve a place in the top four this season. Last week’s loss to Valencia all-but ended their chances of qualifying for Europe’s top competition through their league placing.
The Andalusians trail fourth-placed Valencia by 11 points and will require Marcelino’s men to completely capitulate if they are to have any chance of leapfrogging them before the end of the season. In the short term, they must secure their place in the top six, which on current form seems a realistic target.
Last Time Out
Athletic Bilbao 2-0 Leganes (La Liga)
Leganes struggled to respond to an Athletic Bilbao’s early attacking intent and failed to create any meaningful chances during the 90 minutes.
The home side took the lead after Raul Garcia out-jumped Ivan Cuellar in the opening ten minutes to score.
Seven-minutes later Raul Garcia was well-placed again to take advantage of some poor Leganes defending to smash home his second of the night.
The visitors dominated possession for the remainder of the game, yet couldn’t break through a resolute Athletic defence.
Manchester United 1-2 Sevilla (UEFA Champions League-Round of 16-Second Leg)
Sevilla won for the first time ever on English soil against a lacklustre Manchester United. Vincenzo Montella’s side were by far the more threatening side going forward and took their chances to seal their progression to the quarter-finals.
With the tie finely balanced after a 0-0 first leg draw in Seville, the visitors knew that if they could score first, United would need to score two of their own.
Two fine finishes from Wissam Ben Yedder in the 74th and 78th minute turned the tide strongly in favour of Sevilla.
The home team did what they could to muster a response, but a late strike from the impressive Romelu Lukaku proved too little too late for the Old Trafford crowd.
Asier Garitano will be pleased to be able to pick from an almost injury-free squad this weekend.
Attacking midfielder Alexander Szymanowski is still recovering from a muscle injury and will not be back in time for Sunday’s clash.
There are also doubts over the fitness of forward Miguel Angel Guerrero (illness) and midfielder Gabriel Pires (knee) and neither player is likely to start against Sevilla.
Vincenzo Montella will have to do without the services of winger Jesus Navas (thigh) and defender Sebastien Corchia (groin) who are both struggling with injury.
Forward Joaquin Correa will be unavailable through suspension, which will deal a significant blow to Sevilla’s attacking potency.
Key Battle: Ruben Perez (Leganes) vs Steven N’Zonzi (Sevilla)
Defensive midfielder Ruben Perez has spent the majority of his career on loan, yet has now spent two years at Leganes whilst remaining contracted to second division Granada. The 28-year-old has played an integral role in the centre of midfield this season and has added much-needed top-flight experience to his current side.
Perez doubles up nicely as both a midfield enforcer and a creative presence and Leganes’ form has very much been tied to his own performances. If Leganes are to escape their present decline then they need Perez to continue to lead by example.
Stephen N’Zonzi has been a revelation since signing for Sevilla in 2015 from English side Stoke City. The French international has looked double the player that he was in the English Premier League and is a vital cog in the Sevillian machine.
Against Manchester United in the Champions League, N’Zonzi demonstrated just how far he has developed his game in Spain as he calmly controlled the midfield at Old Trafford. The 28-year-old is a powerful midfield presence and his clash with Ruben Perez will be one-to-watch on Sunday.
Leganes need to get back amongst the goals
If Leganes are to escape their recent torrid run of form then they first need to sort out their attacking deficiencies. Los Legionaries have scored only twice in their last ten competitive outings and have one of the worst goal-scoring records in the division.
The lack of a top-tier quality striker has begun to hurt Leganes and top-scorer Gabriel Pires has only nine goals to his name this season in 22 appearances. Loan signing Claudio Beauvue has scored twice this season but his last goal game at the end of October last year.
Leganes managed well at the beginning of the season, despite a lack of quality up front. As their defensive cohesion has dropped, however, they desperately need their attacking players to up their game if they are to push further up the table.
Can Montella keep his side focused in La Liga?
Tuesday night was an historically successful night for Sevilla and a place in the last eight of Europe’s premier competition is an achievement that Montella’s team will be rightly proud of.
As enjoyable as their current European adventure may be, Sevilla need to ensure that they can retain their focus in the league to secure themselves a place in continental competition next season. The Andalusians are 11 points off the Champions League places, yet must also look over their shoulders, as they are only two points above seventh-placed Girona.
A top seven finish is often enough to qualify for the Europa League in Spain and Sevilla will feel confident in securing a place in the top six at the very least. There is, however, a danger that their Champions League exploits come at the expense of European football next season.
Prediction: Leganes 0-2 Sevilla
This fixture has the potential to provide a real mismatch. Leganes are desperately low on confidence and severely lacking in defensive organisation. Sunday’s visitors Sevilla, however, are full of self-belief following their European success and should have enough physicality to dominate the midfield, leaving Leganes with few chances to compete.
Will Sevilla fight off the distraction of their European success?
Let us know in the comments section below…
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