Real Madrid v Sevilla – Santiago Bernabeu at 19:00 live at Sky Sports
In early March football fans across the continent were looking forward to another three-way title race in Spain with a difference. Atletico Madrid had dropped out of the running early but there was a new kid in town.
Sevilla – under the tutelage of Jorge Sampaoli – were causing a stir, right in the running alongside Real Madrid and Barcelona for La Liga and Champions League glory. Los Blanquirrojos were playing with style, swagger and serious pace.
But a campaign that promised plenty for Sevilla has eroded fast. Sampaoli’s side have since claimed just three victories from 12 across all competitions, a run that has seen them fall out of the Champions League and slip out of contention for top domestic honours.
However, results don’t tell the full story. The Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan club are in a state of flux following the departure of legendary sporting director Monchi after 17 years of service in the role.
The man who has made the club over €300m in sales – at a profit of more than €200m – has moved to Roma and local press described the side’s recent performances as “exhausted, blocked, frustrated, anxious and depressed about Monchi’s departure”.
But there’s another elephant in the room. Head coach Sampaoli insists he would “die” for Sevilla after refusing to discuss his future before the end of the season but reports in Argentina claim he’ll be unveiled as the new Argentina coach on 22nd May, one day after Sevilla’s final game of the season.
Sampaoli, who was born in Argentina, is under contract with Sevilla until June 2018 but can leave this summer provided his €1.5 million release clause is met. The Argentine FA president went public in his bid to secure Sampaoli’s signature and the deal seems to be all but done.
It’s a hammer blow for Los Blanquirrojos. Earlier this campaign Sampaoli was being described as Liga’s great revelation but his exit, along with Monchi’s, is likely to plunge the club into off-field crisis and that’s only going to impact negatively on the first XI.
The Andalusians drop-off is likely to leave punters running for cover but it doesn’t mean we should discard Sevilla here when given a very generous +2.5 start on the Asian Handicap line at Real Madrid.
Los Blancos are hunting their first title since 2012 and could become the first team to retain the Champions League and the hosts can drop no more than two points in their three remaining games to guarantee the title.
But Wednesday’s semi-final second leg at Atletico Madrid showed their qualities perfectly: unable to control a game tactically as they went two down, Madrid had enough good players to drag themselves out of difficulty and secure their passage. Once again they were far from impressive but they completed the job.
The hosts will be without Gareth Bale and Dani Cavajal here and have won 10 of their last 11 when welcoming Sevilla to the capital. The visitors are pointless in 10 trips to Real or Barcelona but they’re not often taken to town and the +2.5 handicap looks good enough to get behind.
Madrid may look to rest and rotate their first-team squad once more and under Zinedine Zidane’s charge the home side have won 12/28 (43%) La Liga games here by three goals or more, only two of which have arrived against top-six opposition.
Asian Handicap Recommendation: Sevilla +2.5 Asian Handicap (1.80)
Prices correct at time of writing.