It was the same line-up from the horror-show in Paris. Zidane showed faith in the same XI that looked lost on both ends of the field — the same XI that spiralled in confidence with each passing minute as PSG ran circles around them. And this game at the Sanchez Pizjuan tonight was, arguably, the biggest of the season until now. It was a chance to build a lead ahead of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, and against an opponent who’ve been getting consistently good results, and a team that boasted three figures that had revenge-tour potential in Lopetegui, Reguilon, and Chicharito.
One thing to note about this Sevilla side: Despite playing a high line this season, they’re more pragmatic than they were under Pablo Machin, when they torched Real Madrid at the Pizjuan last season with manic pressing. This season, they’ve over-performed their xG and conceded less than their xGA. They’ve been good, but their results have also been slightly deceiving.
That might be part of the reason Real Madrid looked relatively comfortable in the first half of this game. Zidane’s men were able to keep Sevilla out of any danger zones in the final third, and came close to exploiting their high line on several occassions. The midfield, particularly James Rodriguez, pressed efficiently and were able to pick out passed behind Sevilla’s wing-backs. Casemiro, Varane, and Carvajal had good step ups throughout this game to thwart Sevilla’s build-up. Mendy also did well to force Jesus Navas backwards all game.
The best chance of the first half fell to Carvajal, who started the entire play by winning the ball in midfield, and then moving into space to receive a pass from James:
Great pass from James there Carvajal should have done betterpic.twitter.com/Sfc0kKxZfP— R3ed Alrashid (@R3ed_0) September 22, 2019
That was a good sequence from Carvajal, who despite the miss (and, as has been the trend with him, a few passes that killed the attack), had a good performance tonight.
That above sequence cuts off right before Carvajal steps up to win possession, and those interventions by Real Madrid were huge throughout the game in giving Zidane’s men attacking chances. On the winning goal of the game, it was Varane who won the ball. The ball eventually found Carvajal, who made a run in-behind Sevilla’s defense. His cross was perfect, as was Benzema’s header:
There was a lot in this game to break down, and it wasn’t easy — nor was it perfect. The second half was more open and chaotic, and Sevilla were able to get into spots they couldn’t get to in the first half. But it was a huge win, capped off by a great weekend where rivals dropped results, and Martin Odegaard also had a great performance. That should make the podcasts over the next three days pretty fun. We’ll break this down in much more detail on tonight’s post-game pod — tactics, performances and all.