“Going by the table, Betis are favourite. Playing at home gives us a small advantage, but in a derby favouritism is put to one side.”
Sunday night at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan promises to be a lively affair. Sevilla must surely hope that the old adage of the formbook going out of the window for derby games is true as their veteran goalkeeper, Andrea Palop, suggests above. If not, they could be in for a difficult evening.
Both sides enter the derby on the back of defeats perhaps managing to subdue optimism slightly in the process. Sevilla crashed 2-1 to Athletic at the San Mames despite the hosts playing the final 15minutes with just 10men. For Betis, it was probably worse. The weight of expectation proving too much and a home defeat to lowly Granada by the same 2-1 scoreline.
Last season Betis took 4 points from their rivals including a 2-1 success at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan with Benat scoring both goals including a ridiculously sublime free kick. Sevilla did manage to secure one important victory over their cross-town rivals. They had a man sent off in each game whilst Betis managed to avoid this fate in what can be a highly charged atmosphere.
At the end of last season, just three points separated the neighbours in La Liga. Sevilla disappointed whilst Betis were more than content with their performance during their first season back in the top flight. Now, both teams are seeking to improve upon last season.
After an impressive start to the season, Sevilla has lost 4 of their last 5 league games. The one game they managed to avoid defeat was a disappointing 0-0 draw at home to Levante.
The early season optimism that engulfed Sevilla following the victory over Real Madrid and the narrow, somewhat unfortunate, loss to Barcelona seems to have evaporated. The long-term loss of Trachowski to injury removing a key player from the starting line up.
By contrast, Betis have won three of their last five league games and sit in the lofty position of 4th in the table. But Pepe Mel knows he has been here before and that early season standings can be deceptive. Betis started last season very strongly before a collapse in form saw them enter a relegation scrap. An upturn in form towards the latter period of the campaign ensured they ultimately survived quite comfortably.
Expected Lines Ups
The Sevilla line up should be relatively straightforward.
It’s likely that Michel will go for a 4-2-3-1 formation. The key issue is whether Cicinho is recalled at right back and who occupies the wide left position in the absence of the injured Trachowski. Michel has options but the versatility of Manu may see him given the starting slot.
The defensive side of Betis should have a fairly familiar look to it. It’s the front half of the team were the attacking options open to Pepe Mel could see a few alterations.
The game appears set for a real struggle down one flank. Betis are strong on their left side with 41% of all attacks originating down this side. Sevilla, unsurprisingly given they have Jesus Navas, are almost as strong on their right with 40% of attacks coming down here. It would appear that Navas is key yet the tricky winger has still to score a goal in La Liga this season or even provide an assist.
The real danger for Betis is Negredo with seven goals in 11 appearances. Sevilla will try to get the ball wide and delivered into the penalty area for the frontman to attack.
Medel and Maduro will provide the industry and graft in front of the back four but this is the sort of game where Medel’s temper can explode. Far from being an asset, in such an encounter the Chilean can often be a liability.
For Betis, the obvious talent within their team is Benat but this is no one-man team.
Molina and Castro have nine goals between this season and should start as they present the main obstacle to the Sevilla defence. Although normally positioned on the right, Castro could be used on the left to try and prevent Cicinho marauding forward in support of Navas.
Benat will operate from deep and will influence play for Betis. To counter this, I would not be surprised to see Ivan Rakitic used in a similar role to that which he performed against Xabi Alonso when the Croatian combined his attacking craft with a tireless shift to prevent Madrid constructing attacks. Sevilla will need to close Benat down.
On the basis of their performances thus far this season, Sevilla should enjoy more possession and play a more aggressive game than Betis but whether that’s enough to secure the win remains open for debate.
A hard fought encounter is likely on Sunday evening. You would not expect it any other way.
If Sevilla are going to get back on track, it’s going to be through hard work and endeavour rather than a technical expansive game.
Expect a high crime count, plenty of incidents and a share of the spoils with both sides leaving with a point each.