Our favorite time, the FIFA international break, is coming up for what seems to be the 73rd time this season already, but the gods have decided to make life even more difficult for Real Madrid with a fun trip to the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium to truly test this team's depth. Oh, and on the other side of the international break? Just the first Clasico of the season is all.
As far as the opponent this weekend, Rafa Benitez will surely welcome the news that James Rodriguez and Gareth Bale have made the squad list. Rodriguez, in particular, stands the better chance to start given that he made the bench versus PSG midweek and was actually warming up on the sidelines. It might be a stretch to start him in such an environment after such a long layoff, but if he does get the nod expect one of Isco or Jese to take a seat on the pine.
The midfield should be the standard trio of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casmiro, but it's the back four which could see some reshuffling. Marcelo has been ruled out and Sergio Ramos still has a shoulder boo-boo. Nacho could see his game-winning efforts versus PSG rewarded with a start at LB while Pepe has an outside shot at partnering with Raphael Varane should Ramos be surprisingly unable to go. Goalkeeper is a bit of a worry as Kiko Casilla will be be forced to make an emergency start versus a team where most Madrid faithful would much rather prefer Navas.
Speaking of, Sevilla is an enigma to say the least. A little over a month ago they took down Barcelona 2-1 after taking a 2-0 lead versus the Catalans. Since then: one win (Getafe), one draw (Eibar), three losses (Manchester City, Villarreal). Those losses aren't a great shame given the level of the competition, but an overall record of 3-3-4 in the league is given the high expectations for Unai Emery's Europa League winning side. Inconsistency has been the main problem, some self-made and some due to poor luck, but aside from the big win versus Barca there hasn't been anything to celebrate so far this season. Bizarre draws versus the likes of Levante and Eibar are coupled with an inexplicable loss to Las Palmas and several other anemic instances of defeat. That being said, this is still an incredibly talented team which will surely give Real Madrid a hard time.
Sevilla's star man, if they truly have one this season, has been forward Kevin Gameiro. Perhaps best used as a super sub, he's been thrust into a starting role this season given the sale of Carlos Bacca and has rewarded Emery with five goals and one assist in all competitions. However, the biggest threat at Sevilla is winger Yevhen Konoplyanka who saw his minutes come few and far in between but is getting more time on the pitch now. He's an explosive one and will be a challenge for whoever Benitez decides to throw out on the pitch.
Behind him the formidable duo of Grzegorz Krychowiak and Vicente Iborra should provide a stern challenge for Madrid's midfield, and that's without even mentoning the industrious Michael Krohn-Dehli pulling the strings. Defensively, Sevilla is a big bag of meh with no one on their backline inspiring much confidence so if Rodriguez and Bale see some minutes then we could see more than a few good chances carved out by Madrid. But, as almost always this season, the finishing will be in the spotlight as Benitez's side has been adhering to the feast or famine lifestyle so far. Got to convert.
Numbers-wise, Sevilla is doing okay offensively but producing nothing spectacular with five out of their 14 goals coming from dead ball situations. On the defensive side, however, they're not doing as well as expected which is likely down to their back four. Tackles and interceptions are down, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but when you watch them play it is a bad thing given how many times defenders are blowing their assignments.
Overall, Sevilla's poor form this season will likely be negated by Madrid's sheer number of injuries so what could've been a confident match for Madridisitas will likely be another nail-biter. Emery is a manager who either gets it 100 percent correct against big sides or a manager who sees his team fold like flan in a cupboard.