Xabi Alonso will return to the Real Madrid squad for the first time this season as the club looks to rebound from their weekend Clasico defeat when Sevilla visit the Bernabeu. Alonso is set to start on the bench on Wednesday, but it is coach Carlo Ancelotti’s starting lineup that is likely to be much scrutinized after criticisms for his selection in the 2-1 loss to Barcelona.
Sergio Ramos was handed a midfield role at the Camp Nou, while Gareth Bale made only his second start as part of an unfamiliar front three alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel di Maria. That Madrid’s performance improved greatly with the withdrawal of Ramos and Bale was clear and only added to the questions over the original selection. One of the men who made an impact off the bench, Karim Benzema, has been confirmed by Ancelotti as a starter against Sevilla.
Even before El Clasico there has been much discussion about Ancelotti’s tactics and just how he is trying to move the team on from Jose Mourinho’s counter-attacking philosophy. The Italian admits that they remain a work in progress.
“We’re very close [to seeing Ancelotti’s Marid],” he said, according to Spanish sports daily AS. “I can’t say how many days. I hope tomorrow we have the intensity we were lacking against Barcelona. We only played well in the second half in the Camp Nou and we need to do that for the whole game.
“For the fans it’s hard to know what we’re trying to do because we haven’t always played good football. The criticism is normal. But I only take into account constructive criticism. I think the team’s style of play is clear.”
Taking three points on Wednesday will be crucial to remain in touch with Barcelona at the top of the Primera Division table. Barcelona’s win over Celta Vigo on Tuesday evening opened up a nine point gap, which even at this early stage of the season would be potentially insurmountable. A victory is unlikely to be straightforward, though, against a Sevilla side that has gone seven matches without defeat in all competitions.
Having had the heart of their team ripped out over the summer with several big-name departures, Sevilla lost three of their first five Liga games. Yet, inspired by the performances and goals of midfielder Ivan Rakitic, Unai Emery’s side have risen into the top half of the table.
Real Madrid (probable)
D: Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo
M: Khedira, Illarramendi, Isco
F: Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo
D: Diogo, Pareja, Carrico, Moreno
M: Jairo, Mbia, Rakitic, Vitolo
F: Gameiro, Bacca
Prediction: Real Madrid certainly remain a work in progress, although there remains some doubt about what the style is that Ancelotti is trying to implement. Indeed, throughout his managerial career Ancelotti’s teams have lacked a clear identity. Against most teams, the exceptional quality of their individuals will be enough to prosper, but, as the Clasico showed, more will be needed against the very best.
Sevilla do not fit into that latter category, but they will present tough opposition. Still, Madrid should be more coherent with Benzema offering a natural focal point in attack and Isco potentially coming into the side to provide creativity from midfield. And, with Sevilla yet to win away from home in the league this season, Madrid should rebound with a win.
Real Madrid 3-1 Sevilla
Where to watch: The Spanish Primera Division match will kick off at 5 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Espanol, with the second half shown on beIN Sport. A live stream will be available on beIN Sport Play.