The next time Real get out of their half, they take the lead! Odriozola gets forward from right back and swings in a cross to the far post, where Benzema heads home. But wait! VAR shows Odriozola was an inch offside – it won’t count.
9 mins: Benzema ends a long spell of Sevilla possession, taking the ball and steaming down the left. Isolated, he tries to win a free kick on the edge of the area, but the referee waves his appeal away.
6 mins: Sevilla have made a confident start, controlling possession in the Real Madrid half. They win a corner which comes to nothing, but Real look happy to sit deep and wait for a chance to break.
3 mins: Vinicius, playing between Real’s four-man midfield and Benzema, gets his first opening on the left. His mazy dribble is shut down in stages by the Sevilla defence.
2 mins: Sevilla have set up in a 4-3-3 that’s reminiscent of Guardiola’s Manchester City, with no out-and-out striker in a rotating, high-pressing front three. No place in the starting line-up for either Youssef En-Nesyri or Luuk de Jong.
The players are heading out onto the pitch at Valdebebas. Real Madrid are in all white, Sevilla in all red. Game time!
There are a couple of other big games happening elsewhere in Europe tonight. In Italy, Juventus and Milan are fighting for a top-four finish – it’s 0-0 there early doors. In Ligue 1, PSG go to Rennes looking to cut the gap to leaders Lille back to a single point. That game kicks off in five minutes.
In Sunday’s other La Liga games, Villarreal suffered something of a Europa League handover, losing 4-2 at home to Celta Vigo. Maxi Gómez scored twice for Valencia as they beat Valladolid 3-0 to stop their slide down the table, and the great escape is on for Eibar after they grabbed a late win at Getafe. Worth noting that on the final day Atlético, Barça and Sevilla all face teams likely to be fighting the drop. The permutations are endless.
Because Real Madrid have a head-to-head advantage of Atlético, their task is clear: win their last four games, and they will retain the title. It’s a tough run-in, though. After tonight’s game, they visit Granada and Athletic Bilbao before ending the season at home to Villarreal. Here are all four sides’ remaining fixtures after tonight’s game:
Atlético (77pts): Real Sociedad (H), Osasuna (H), Valladolid (A).
Barcelona (75): Levante (A), Celta Vigo (H), Eibar (A).
Real Madrid (74): Granada (A), Athletic Bilbao (A), Villarreal (H).
Sevilla (71): Valencia (H), Villarreal (A), Alavés (A).
Real Madrid: Courtois; Odriozola, Eder Militão, Nacho, Marcelo; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric; Valverde, Benzema, Vinicíus.
Subs: Lunin, Altube, Hazard, Asensio, Isco, Mariano, Rodrygo, Blanco, Miguel.
Sevilla: Bono; Jesús Navas, Koundé, Diego Carlos, Acuña; Fernando, Rakitic, Jordán; Suso, Papu Gómez, Ocampos.
Subs: Vaclik, Javi Díaz, S Gómez, Rekik, Gudelj, De Jong, Rodríguez, En-Nesyri, Aleix Vidal, Escudero, Óliver Torres, Vázquez.
This has not been a vintage Real Madrid season. Playing at their training ground, they have watched Atlético threaten to run away with the title and suffered what felt like an era-ending defeat to Chelsea in the Champions League. Meanwhile, Florentino Pérez’s Super League machinations, motivated by money problems, have made him the poster boy for the modern game’s greed. Real Madrid appear diminished, on and off the pitch. And yet, here we are.
Atléti’s draw at Barcelona – a game that was much more engaging than the 0-0 scoreline suggests – mean that Real can go top of the table with a win here, the title race in their hands with three games to go. As Sergio Ramos once said, “whoever says Real Madrid are dead is always proved wrong in the long term.” He said it in defence of Julen Lopetegui, pleading for patience as the manager’s Madrid tenure span off the rails in 2018.
Real Madrid caused a World Cup scandal by poaching Lopetegui from Spain, then gave him the comunicado oficiál just a few months later. The coach has rebuilt his reputation with Sevilla, who aren’t out of the title race themselves. An away win here would squeeze the top four to within four points of each other, setting up a dramatic sprint for the finish line. It’s up for grabs.