Returning to Spain from Saudi Arabia, where they earned a hard-fought Spanish Super Cup victory, Real Madrid now has a chance to leap to the top of the La Liga table — at least for 24 hours. On Saturday, they will host Sevilla FC, which has lost only once in 11 matches across all competitions.
But just as Real Madrid is tied on points with FC Barcelona atop the table, Sevilla is also level with Atlético Madrid, in fourth place due only to a goal differential deficit. An upset win for the visiting Andalusian side at the iconic Santiago Bernabéu Stadium on Saturday would close Los Nervionenses to within just two points of Real Madrid and Barcelona — which takes on Granada in the Spanish weekend finale on Sunday night.
In an unusual move last week, first-place Barcelona fired their manager, Ernesto Valverde — a development that was not lost on Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane, despite his team's run of success so far this season.
"I know that if we lose two games, they will criticize me in the same way that they did a month and a half ago," Zidane said on Friday, as quoted by ESPN. "We can't always play well."
On Saturday, Zidane will notably be squaring off against a former Real Madrid coach, Julen Lopetegui, who took over Sevilla last June.Sevilla comes into the Bernabéu as heavy underdogs, at 41-10 odds to win the match compared to 61-100 odds for the home team, according to odds published by Bleacher Report. Though Sevilla has lost just once in 11 matches, Real Madrid's win on penalties in the Super Cup final was their 16th straight game without a defeat in any competition.
The two teams have met 144 times in their respective histories, with Real Madrid winning 76 of those matches and Sevilla winning 42, according to Sportskeeda.
The hosts also hold a home-field advantage, winning 65 percent of their last 20 matches at their legendary home stadium. Sevilla, on the other hand, has lost 45 percent of the time in their last 20 road games.
While Real Madrid expects the return of scoring leader Karim Benzema, who missed the Super Cup mini-tournament, they may be without the services of longtime captain Sergio Ramos. He has been struggling to come back from an ankle injury suffered in that Super Cup final against Atlético Madrid.
The last time Real Madrid and Sevilla faced each other came on September 22, with Los Blancos taking the 1-0 away win on a 64th-minute goal by Benzema.
Real Madrid vs. Sevilla FC kicks off at 4 p.m. on Saturday in Spain, which is 10 a.m. EST in the United States, where the cable network BeIN Sports will broadcast the match.