Real Madrid are finally playing the game they've had in hand in La Liga. Though currently sitting one point clear at the top of the table, Real have an opportunity to extend it to four on Wednesday against Sevilla.
In August's UEFA Super Cup, Real Madrid and Sevilla walked out of the tunnel in Cardiff holding their respective European trophies: Madrid with La Décima, Sevilla with their third Europa League cup. Real won the game 2-0 on the back of Cristiano Ronaldo, and this is the first league meeting between the sides this season.
Fast-forward five months, and Sevilla are still as frisky as they were last spring, if not more. This time around they have their sights on the Champions League, and should they leave the Bernabéu with a win, they'd be only six points back of the league lead.
Cristiano Ronaldo will not feature as he'll be wrapping up the final game of his suspension (Ronaldo has 18 goals against Sevilla in 12 appearances), while Modrić, Pepe, and Coentrão will miss the game with injuries. Marcelo and James are both at risk of missing El Derbi Madrileño on Saturday if they pick up yellows against Sevilla, but despite this Ancelotti said "The team will be more or less unchanged from the game against Real Sociedad." Perhaps Carlo has a few rotations in mind, but expect a very similar lineup and 4-4-2 formation.
The connection to watch for on Sevilla is Denis Suárez-to-Carlos Bacca. Bacca can score from anywhere and leads Sevilla with 12 goals, while Suárez, a Barcelona loanee, is often the one pushing the ball forward. And with Vitolo and Aleix Vidal on each side of Bacca, Sevilla can score in a hurry and have done so often this season. Madrid will have to prevent Sevilla from both trickling the ball into Madrid's third, as well as keep them from getting out on the break. Madrid's fullbacks and defensive midfield will have their hands full.
Asier Illarramendi should start again, especially if Ancelotti sends out his 4-4-2 formation. Illarra looked strong in his role against La Real, and his tackling and intercepting prowess could be useful against Sevilla. We all await Lucas Silva's debut, and it's possible (albeit unlikely) we'll see him Wednesday. Benzema's goal drought feels like forever ago after bagging a brace against Sociedad, and he and Bale created plenty of chances last weekend. Also, if Real Madrid can manage to get through the first 60 seconds of the match without conceding, that'd be a win in its own way.
Atléti await, as does Cristiano's return. Before then, Madrid will have to dispatch their fellow European trophy-winners.
Projected lineup: Casillas; Nacho, Ramos, Varane, Carvajal; James, Isco, Kroos, Illarra; Bale, Benzema
Prediction: Real Madrid 3-2 Sevilla FC