If you think this is precisely the kind of fixture for which Quique Sanchez Flores was brought back to win then you’re gonna LOVE this stat.
The two sides have met at this stadium in Madrid ten times in the Primera Division and Sevilla have only won once. Six years ago.
Sevilla won the Cup Final the two contested . Sevilla won the Cup Final when Quique was the Atletico manager . Sevilla won when they met at the Alfonso Perez Coliseum in the Second Division.
But in the top flight Getafe are stubborn as mules when this lot come to town.
Less promisingly Quique’s two matches in charge of Getafe v Sevilla, a decade ago, each ended in scoreless draws littered with yellow cards.
IF you want to build a case for this talented, charismatic manager to win this one then here’s what you’re up against.
His eight games in charge have seen two wins, five goals and only three scorers – Álvaro, Diego Castro and Pedro Sarabia.
More, Geta are still without: Vicente Guaita, Babá Diawara, Ángel Lafita, Karim Yoda and Sergio Escudero.
But here’s the rub. Sevilla blew a chance to win in Madrid in midweek – mostly because they couldn’t finish chances.
And, before they return to the capital this weekend it has cost them.
Keeper Beto is out for at least 8 weeks after his collision with Benzema and Unai is without Vitolo, Aleix Vidal and Carriço because of suspension, adding to an injury list of Tremoulinas, Pareja, Reyes, Gameiro and Cristóforo.
They should have beaten the European champions on Wednesday, they are the better team in this match… but this is football.
This is a place they hate coming.
To me it all smacks of either Quique’s third consecutive 0-0 draw against Sevilla, ten years on, or, if he’s lucky, Mehdi Lacen, back from Copa Africa, adding to his regular groovy performances against Sevilla and a 1-0 win.
Graham Hunter’s Bet: 0-0 draw at 13/2
So, will this match tell the story of Espanyol’s or Valencia’s season?
On Matchday 3 Los Che romped it. 3-0 up until a 90th minute penalty which Sergio Garcia converted
Valencia pushed them about, played on the break, ignored any of Espanyol’s nice passing patterns and just got the knuckle-duster out.
Bish, bash bosh.
That day Lucas Vázquez and Felipe Caicedo were only subs for the visitors. Coach Sergio González had other priorities.
From then till now a great deal has changed.
For example, Valencia are Charles Atlas at home, eight stone weaklings away.
Espanyol now feel very differently about Lucas and Felipe.
Caicedo’s on a blistering scoring run – eight in his last eleven to equal his best-ever goal form which was 2010/11 with Levante. Lucas, on loan from Madrid, looks smart and technically elegant.
Now a regular starter and full of creative threat he, plus Caicedo, Duarte, Moreno, Sergio Garcia and Casilla have transformed Espanyol’s season.
Such that they knocked Valencia out of the Cup, 3-2, with the Ecuadorian striker notching twice.
A result which added to the unsettling fact that although Nuno Espirito Santo is patently a firm part of a powerful and still very new project at the Mestalla there’s growing concern at his team’s apathetic away form and the concept that he’s a tactical tinkerer – too often fiddling with the formation and the starting XI.
Last week they let us down at Málaga – barely showing up.
Play like that again and, although they are a better XI and better squad than Espanyol, they’ll lose.
This week, having already suffered 7 red cards this season, they are without both Otamendi and full back Cancela – suspended.
Home wins in January over Celta, Almería, Valencia and Sevilla [10 scored 1 conceded] tell you that Espanyol aren’t to be sneered at, a home loss to Eibar before that tells you that they ain’t the Bank of England either.
Caicedo, Sergio G and Stuani worth a look for the home side, Piatti, Negredo and Paco Alcacer for the visitors.
Graham’s Bet: Espanyol win at 7/4
This is one for the superstitious – those who see patterns in numbers and statistical trends which mustn’t be ignored.
The last time Luis Enrique’s mob were ‘oop north’ in the Basque country it was the first match of the year, at the Anoeta, and it was grim.
An own-goal, a defeat – both ridicule and a mini-mutiny for having left not only Neymar, Piqué, Rakitic and Alves out – but Messi too.
The defeat came just after a mini holiday.
Now they are back in the Pays Vasco – after a mini holiday.
Another mini revolt, too. The players, and to be fair the coach, didn’t want to play a scheduled friendly in Qatar this week so it was cancelled.
Everyone bar Piqué and Neymar had two and a half days off.
So, what chances of the result or the performance at San Mames repeating that of the Anoeta and leaving the title chasers with egg on their faces again?
Do you sense a pattern emerging?
It’s a thorny place, traditionally. Since 2004 Barcelona have three wins, six draws …but only two defeats in league and cup at the San Mames.
The key fact, however, is that given their four point deficit to Madrid at the top Barcelona can’t afford either of the latter two results. Not even a draw.
It’s February, so to pretend that this is an all-or-nothing weekend would be immature.
But it paints as an opportunity. Barcelona cure their travel-ills and get a bit Jack Kerouac. Memorable on the road. [Geddit?]
Away from the Camp Nou they’ve dropped thirteen points and consistently looked vulnerable.
But IF they’ve shed that personality, IF the form at the Calderón and Riazor is the real Barça then here’s the script.
They pick up three points and Madrid draw in the derbi.
Gap down to two points with a Camp Nou Clásico still to play.
That’s got to be how Luis Enrique is figuring this weekend.
What makes this particularly juicy for the neutral is that Athletic have stemmed the hemorrhage of bad results recently.
Wins and draws against Málaga and Levante in Cup and League have brought three goals for Aduriz and a sixth of the season from man-mountain defender Miki San-Jose.
Susaeta has set up three of the last four Athletic goals and they DO like to notch with a header.
Something Barcelona notoriously struggle to cope with.
Summary? Barcelona too improved, too many options, too much quality. 2-1 to the visitors.
Up to you, but if both San Jose and Piqué start I’m gonna take a wild punt on both to score. But that’s how I roll.
The sane will look to Messi, Neymar, Suárez [who’s increasingly vital for this attack] and Aduriz for scorers.
Graham’s Bet: Barcelona to win 2-1 at 7/1