Real Madrid are under huge pressure coming into Saturday’s clash against Sevilla, and a defeat could have massive ramifications. But both Real Madrid and Zinedine Zidane are experts in dealing with the pressure, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them bounce back.
If they are to beat a tough Sevilla side, they will need to solve their issues in the midfield. They have missed the dynamism of Federico Valverde – when they lose the ball, they don’t have the hunger to win it back and this was clear in the defeat to Alavés last weekend.
Martin Ødegaard is one Real Madrid player who can unlock the key to their midfield problems. So far, we’ve only seen a fraction of his potential. As a former midfielder myself, I watch him and think he has everything you need; creative on the ball, great technique, defensively sound, dead-ball specialist – everything! Once he regains his confidence and starts taking more risks on the ball, we’ll see the best of him again.
Real Madrid’s opponents this weekend, Sevilla, currently lie in fifth place, with only six points separating them and the relegation zone, which shows how competitive the league is this season.
Sevilla have everything to be challenging for trophies but so far this season we haven’t seen the best of them. Julen Lopetegui’s side are usually well organised but they have been conceding too many chances this season, and swiftly need to change that trend.
The key could be in central defence and bringing Jules Koundé and Diego Carlos back together. As a pairing, they’re up there with the best in LaLiga, alongside Sergio Ramos and Raphaël Varane.
Diego Carlos has been a revelation since signing from Nantes in France – it was a classic Monchi signing; no-one really knew him, but he’s been rock solid.
Both sides desperately need a result so I can see this going either way, but Real Madrid have been here before and they’ll need a similar performance to their win at Camp Nou to beat Sevilla on Saturday.
There are early signs of the Pep Guardiola team; they’re exciting to watch and if they lose the ball, they win it back within a matter of seconds.
The movement up front has improved, and Antoine Griezmann is benefiting from playing in behind Martin Braithwaite. Braithwaite works his socks off every game, making runs in to the channel which provides space for the rest of the team.
Koeman is growing into the role and he’s resting key players at the right time. Lionel Messi, Phillipe Coutinho and Marc-André ter Stegen were all rested in the week and will be fresh to play against Cadiz.
And that’s with respect to Cadiz, who shouldn’t be overlooked in this game - they have caused problems for the bigger sides in LaLiga beating Real Madrid earlier this season.
On Friday night, Athletic Bilbao host Celta Vigo live on free-to-air TV channel FreeSports, and I’m expecting an exciting game between two sides full of quality.
Athletic Bilbao’s Unai Vencedor is one to watch in this game – he’s technically gifted and very comfortable on the ball. When he made his debut last season, he was trusted with taking set pieces which shows his confidence and personality – and he even struck the crossbar with a free-kick.
Celta Vigo have had a difficult start to the season and can’t keep underperforming in LaLiga - there’s too much quality at the club with the likes of Denis Suárez and Iago Aspas.
Celta recently appointed Eduardo Coudet as the new manager who has shifted the mentality at the club – they beat a tough Granada side last weekend and will be desperate to find some consistency and follow that up with a win here.
On Sunday night Alavés host league leaders Real Sociedad, and I’m expecting a tough match for the visitors.
Alavés caused Real Madrid an upset last week, but don’t be surprised to see more this season. LaLiga is an extremely competitive league where anyone can beat anyone, and I put that down to the level of coaching. LaLiga is full of the best coaches in the world, all the teams are well drilled, physically fit and tactically astute.
Alavés are full of confidence after that exceptional performance last weekend. Their boss Pablo Machin has settled on the 4-4-2 system and it’s working wonders for Joselu and Lucas Pérez in attack, with ex-Aston Villa midfielder Jota able to link the play.
Sociedad have had to use their squad depth this season and they have needed to call upon their academy products recently. I was really impressed by 18-year-old Ander Barrenetxea last week: on his day he’s unplayable, and it’s great for Imanol that he can trust his young stars to step up when needed.
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