Sevilla keep the pressure on Barcelona

Pablo Machin

Sevilla returned to second place in the La Liga table, with a 2-1 home win over Espanyol last weekend, sending a clear message to leaders Barcelona in the process.

Pablo Machin’s side replaced Espanyol as the closest side to Barcelona, with Joan Francesc Ferrer’s team slipping down to sixth following the loss.

Sevilla completed a double victory for Andalusia over Catalonia in Gameweek 12, with city rivals Real Betis inflicting Barcelona’s first home La Liga defeat of the season with a 4-3 victory at Camp Nou.

They have also taken advantage of Real Madrid’s inconsistency at the start of the season, to establish themselves as the main challenger to Barcelona, at this stage of the campaign.

A win over Levante, and a memorable 3-0 victory over Real Madrid at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in late September, lifted them into the top four, where they have remained since.

From there they have won four of their last five La Liga games, losing only to Barcelona in October, and they are quietly placing themselves as a real threat to Ernesto Valverde’s chances of retaining the La Liga title in 2019.

The key to their continued rise in recent weeks has been an attacking tactical approach, with two or more goals scored in their last seven league games, allied with improvements in defence – with three clean sheets in their last six games in all competitions.

French international Wissam Ben Yedder netted the winner against Espanyol, his sixth La Liga goal of the season, one behind leading scorer Andre Silva.

Midfielder pair Ever Banega and Pablo Sarabia have also chipped in with vital goals, and in defence the returns of Sergio Escudero and Gabriel Mercado for the Espanyol game gave Sevilla a more solid look.

Barcelona’s surprise defeat to Real Betis has opened up an opportunity for Sevilla to push their claims for a key role in this season’s title race.

Following the international break, they host Real Valladolid, who are slowly coming back down to Earth following an impressive start to their campaign.

From there it is two potentially very testing away games in La Liga, at Alaves and Valencia, and those clashes will provide a more relevant gauge of where Machin’s side are in the reality of a possible title push.

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