Sevilla braced for big money bids for their star players

Pablo Sarabia

Sevilla are preparing for a summer of transfer speculation over their top players, after a strong finish to the 2018-19 La Liga season.

Interim manager Joaquin Caparros confirmed earlier this week that he would be leaving the club, after leading them to a fifth place finish and another Europa League qualification spot.

The club will look to appoint a new permanent boss as soon as possible, with links to former AS Roma manager Eusebio Di Francesco and Alaves’ Head Coach Asier Garitano.

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La Liga’s top fantasy football picks for this weekend

Sarabia

This weekend sees another full lineup of La Liga action including the mighty El Clasico which takes place at the Bernabeu in Madrid on Saturday evening.

Real Madrid will be keen to put a halt to Barcelona’s march towards another La Liga title. A win for the home side would put them back within six points of Ernesto Valverde’s league leaders with 12 games remaining. Clearly, there’s still a lot to play for going into this gameweek.

Elsewhere, second-placed Atletico Madrid travel to play Real Sociedad while Sevilla are away to bottom-of-the-table Huesca.

Goal shy Sevilla run the risk of missing out on the Champions League

Sevilla agony

Sevilla are at real risk missing out on a Champions League spot as their struggles in front of goal in La Liga in 2019 continue.

Pablo Machin’s side had been the front runner to clinch fourth place, behind Spain’s Big Three, however they have lost ground in recent weeks – with in form Getafe overtaking them last weekend.

The team from South Madrid are now two points clear of Machin’s side in the race for fourth place, with the Andalusian club in need of a reaction in the coming weeks if they are to return to Champions League football, after missing out in 2018-19.

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La Liga leaders Sevilla set for testing run of fixtures

sevilla

Sevilla are back at the top of La Liga ahead of Game Week 14, with holders Barcelona slipping down to second following their late draw with Atletico Madrid.

Pablo Machin’s side secured their return to the summit with a routine 1-0 win over newly promoted Real Valladolid on Sunday.

Their rise to the top caps a run of nine La Liga games, in which they have lost just once, to Barcelona, and beaten Levante, Real Madrid, Eibar, Celta Vigo, Huesca and Espanyol on the way.

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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.

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Sevilla head to Camp Nou for table topping clash

andre silva sevilla

Sevilla v Barcelona is always an enticing La Liga fixture in any season, but this weekend’s clash has taken on new importance, with the Andalusian side leading the way in the Spanish top flight this season.

Pablo Machin’s side have turned in some impressive performances in recent weeks, as well as benefiting from the recent inconsistency of Barcelona and Real Madrid, and they have a one point lead over the Catalan side ahead of Saturday’s game.

Barcelona have already defeated Sevilla once  this season, with a 2-1 victory in the Spanish Super Cup in August.

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Andre Silva and Sevilla show why they are a match made in heaven

Silva

Within La Liga, the likes of Iago Aspas, Karim Benzema and Luis Suarez are deemed as the main centre-forwards for their respective clubs. These individuals have proven themselves for a numbers of years in Spain and are constantly a threat in the final third of the pitch. However, a young Portuguese striker has entered the scene and has caught the attention of many football supporters.

Andre Silva, who is currently on loan from AC Milan, has found his goal-scoring mentality once again and is enjoying his time so far at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. Pablo Machin has placed a lot of faith into the youngster and spoke highly of the player following his arrival to the club, and the centre-forward has gone on to paying the head coach back by notching seven goals in eight league games.

In fact, the way he leads the line for his side is unique in its own way, with his incredible hunger for goals along with his movement on and off the ball to the type of finishing he has in his locker. Still only 22-years-old, he has a whole career ahead of himself and he can patiently make the perfect decision of which competitive league in league he will want to play in for the rest of his profession.

Looking quickly back at his time in Serie A, he was brought to San Siro in the summer of 2017 for a huge figure of €38 million, as a large number of AC Milan fans were expecting him to complete the side’s attack and to increase their chances of finishing in the Champions League spots. Though, it did not work out as planned as his abilities and strengths simply did not suit Gennaro Gattuso’s system.

Now, Silva and Sevilla are doing more than enough to get the best out of each other whilst aiming to silently challenge for the league title and the Europe League. Although it is easier said than done, Machin will need to make sure he utilises the squad in a way that they can compete in all the competitions they take part in and that none of the key players pick and issues or injury problems.

Since making his senior debut for his country in 2016, the people of Portugal straightaway felt that they have finally found a centre-forward that is perfect for the manager and the team. Scoring a hat-trick in his second appearance against Faroe Islands was the ideal way for him to enter the spotlight as he came up with a fine performance whilst showing his ability to score different types of goals.

On top of that, he has been impressive at international level, where he once scored four goals in a match against Hungary in the group stages of the UEFA European Under-19 Championship in 2014. Also, at the moment he is notched 13 goals in 28 games for the national team, clearly showing that he has been an instant hit for Fernando Santos’ team and is providing serious competition in attack.

Going back to Sevilla and their expectations in La Liga, they could be aiming for a title challenge as the likes of Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid have been purely unconvincing so far this season. If Machin’s men can remain consistent and effective on both sides of the pitch, then it is more than possible that this campaign in Spain could go down as one of the best seasons of all time.

Overall, it would be a huge piece of business completed by Sevilla if they sign Andre Silva on a permanent basis next summer, given that he has already earned the faith of Pablo Machin, and that the majority of Sevilla fans are enjoying the brilliance he has brought to Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

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La Liga Best XI – Week 7

detomasFollowing on from some exciting performances and high scoring games in recent weeks, La Liga went through a weekend of something like the status quo without too many majorly surprising results this past weekend. Sevilla did well to record a 3-1 win at Eibar, while El Derbi Madrileño finished goalless at the Santiago Bernabeu. Valencia did manage to reward their fans for the patience shown in the early stages of this campaign by notching up their first win of the campaign, a 1-0 victory at Real Sociedad, and Athletic Bilbao did well to secure a point following their 1-1 draw against Barcelona at the Nou Camp. Utilising a 4-3-3 this week, let’s take a look at the best La Liga best XI from round 7!

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Why Milan must focus on securing fourth place

 

AC Milan players applaud fans for their support.

AC Milan players applaud fans for their support.

Talking about AC Milan competing for any championship these days sounds odd to hear. The Rossoneri are years away from becoming the force that once conquered European club football. And on the domestic front, it’s difficult to imagine them breaking Juventus stranglehold of the league, at least, not in the nearest future.

After last Sunday the 1-1 draw against Cagliari, Milan Legend Paolo Maldini Summarized the current status of the team in a very reflective statement. “Being the anti-Juventus? Let’s be serious, we’re still a long way off being that. We’re aiming to reach the top four in the league and have a great run in the Europa League. Projects are important, but you can’t yet compare Milan to Juventus.”

One big take out from this comment is the admission by the former Iconic Milan Captain that, the Rossoneri will not win the Europa League. Sure, Milan are looking to have a great run in the competition, but how far can they go, quarter-final or Semi-final? And will that be a prudent use of their current strength or a focus discussion on securing fourth place in Serie A should be the way to go.

Despite the improvement in key areas this season, Milan’s performance last season suggest they need to choose between the Europa League and fourth place in Serie A. And for a club of Milan’s stature qualification for Champions league should be the Holy Grail.

Milan started very well in the qualification round of the Europa League last season, before witnessing some disappointing results and insipid display during the group stage. However, it became a platform for players such as Andre Silva  and Fabio Borini to make a case for a starting place in the team which did not quite materialised. The Portugal international, Silva, who is currently on loan at Sevilla could not translate his European form into domestic performance.

Gannaro Gattuso managed to take Milan to the round 16th of Europe’s second tier competition, but stumbled against English side Arsenal both at home and away grounds. Notwithstanding the Gunners ordeal during that time in their English Premier League, which read eight points behind fourth place, the chasm in quality, maturity and organisation was huge. Of course, Arsenal had a crop of players who had been together for quite a long time whiles the Rossoneri were going through what one will describe as a teething problem.

The Europa League could disrupt Milan’s domestic campaign, as it can put a strain on the squad. Compared to last season, Gattuso has got a bigger group of players must be tactful in how he rotates the lads whiles guarding against injuries. The inclusion of Samu Castilljo, Diego Laxalt, Tiémoué Bakayoko and Alen Halilović could provide the Diavolo cover in crucial moments. The team still awaits the return of right back Andrea Conti from rehabilitation after a long spell in the treatment room.

Milan kick start their campaign against Dudelange in Group F which also has the likes Real Betis and Olympiacos. They will qualify and possibly lead the group, but do they have the quality to compete against some of the big dogs who may fall from the Champions league. How would Milan fair against teams like Chelsea, Arsenal, Sevilla or even Olympiacos and Real Betis in the group stage.

From an administrative perspective participation in the Europa league is a great call because it comes with some financial incentives, whiles from a supporter’s point of view, this an opportunity to witness European football at the San Siro, especially, when their rivals from the blue side of the City, Inter Milan, are involved in the bigger one, the Champion League.

It’s early days yet but, Milan’s domestic form isn’t that great and Maldini had some few words on how the team can develop “What to improve? We have to try to accelerate the growth of experience, we have an opportunity and the results of the other teams show it. The team is not yet aware of how strong it is, many guys have not realized how much they can give. Dialogue with us directors could be important for them”.

Certainly, having a discussion with the squad could do a lot for their confidence and provide them with a sense of self believe, but the bigger problem is, there are a few reliable players in this group.

Milan must choose between spending their energies in finishing fourth in Seire A or risk being derailed by their participation in the Europa League as they do not have the quality to compete against the big guns in the competition.

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Game changers could catalyze Milan’s Champions League berth

Prior to the commencement of the season, the area that needed the most improvement for AC Milan was the striking department. As Nikola Kalinic and Andre Silva failed to impress in their debut season for the Rossoneri, the mantle fell to 20 year-old Patrick Cutrone, who produced 18 goals in all completions last season.

To be fair to Andre Silva, he didn’t see enough minutes on the pitch, and it looked like his first Milan manager Vincenzo Montella, had earmarked him to for the Europa League competition, whiles preferring Kalinic to the league, probably based on his experience in Serie A. To the surprise of many Milan’s attack had the most departures this season. Nicola Kalinic has left for Atletico Madrid, Andrew Silva is currently on loan at Sevilla whiles Carlos Bacca made his loan move to Villareal permanent.

The acquisition of Gonzalo Higuain is a big improvement in the striking department as the Argentine has got a pretty goal scoring record compared to his predecessors. His success will, however depend largely on the framework around him .Cutrone, meanwhile, is set to play an important part of the season as he continues to blossom into a shining star. The young Italian once again proved his value to the Club as he came on in the 84th minute to secure Milan their first win of the season over AS Roma at the San Siro.

Gattuso had previously stated publicly, that he needed a left winger to add to his offensive unit. Someone who could provide a more attacking edge going forward .And more importantly a backup for Suso. Last season, Milan didn’t appear to have much firepower to turn things around in difficult situations, and lacked the composure and maturity to respond when a goal down. There was a lack of confidence on the bench, the likes of Andre Silva, Fabio Borini, and Manuel Locatelli except for one, Patrick Cutrone. The reserve unit failed to impact games.

Now, Fabio Borini, despite his lack of technical proficiency, cannot be questioned when it comes to application and having the right attitude. His ability to track back to help the defense whiles occasionally providing excellent delivery into the box contributed five goals and seven assist in all completion last season. The problem is, he’s not a reliable and consistent performer. Portuguese international Andre Silva was a better player in the few games that he started, as he looked confused as to where to function alongside Cutrone or Kalinic anytime he came on as a substitute. The only moment Silva truly affected a game was his first League and match winning goal away to Genoa after coming off the bench.

This Season, the Rossoneri boast a better quality on the bench. AC MIlan have bolstered their attacking options by signing Diego Laxalt from Genoa and Samu Castijlleo from Vilarreal and Alen Halilovic from Hamburger SV. These are not World class, but an upgrade in the context of their previous campaign. Halilovic who has been purchased to give Suso a bit of a respite may find playing time in the league hard to come by, but could be useful in the Europa League.

Diego Laxalt can play as a left back as we witnessed at the just ended World Cup for his country Uruguay. And compared to Ricardo Rodrigues, the former Genoa left midfielder provides a bit more attacking impetus with his aggression than the Swiss International.

In the 2-1 win over Roma, Milan’s attack came to live in the when Cutrone, Laxalt and Castillejo joined the fray in the second period, as they helped to galvanize the home side’s offensive play. Castillejo could be a hugely significant player for the Diavolo with his trickery and pace on the flanks. Gattuso was effusive of the former Villareal winger in his comments, “Castillejo gives us a different alternative, and he and Laxalt changed things on Friday. Samu came on with a competitive ferocity I had not seen before in training, he seemed a little indifferent to me. Instead, on Friday he showed the qualities that made us sign him. When he wants to win back the ball, he does so with great vehemence.”

The Spanish international could serve as another viable tool in the Italian’s arsenal. Castillejo scored six goals and provided seven assist in La Liga last season in 30 appearances.

Gattuso needs to maximize the talents available to him by assimilating the new players and re-inventing established ones such as Suso,Hakan Calhanoglu and Giacomo Bonaventura, whiles hoping others find top gear. The AC Milan manager has already floated the idea of playing his two strikers, Higuian and Cutrone together as they study and understand each other. Higuain is a better role model for the 20 year-Old Italian.

It is rare for teams to be successful without decent backups, and Milan’s game changers will help to secure qualification for the Champions league football. As Gennaro Gattuso said “Important players have arrived and both Laxalt and Castillejo have shown it. When they play together, Castillejo and Laxalt can break up the game in 15-20 minutes”.

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