Sevilla will bid to further their chances of securing Champions League qualification when they host struggling Elche on Wednesday.
Julen Lopetegui’s men picked up a crucial 1-0 victory over local rivals Real Betis in a big derby clash at the weekend. It brought a long winless streak to an end, and consolidated their grip on a top four place.
Sevilla are now six points clear of fifth placed Real Sociedad, and they would move three points behind second placed Real Madrid if they were to beat Elche. However, they lost 2-1 to Fran Escriba’s men when they met earlier this month, so they will need to buck their ideas up on Wednesday.
Escriba has breathed a new lease of life into this Elche side since taking the reins on February 14. He instantly led them to a 1-0 victory over Eibar – a result that gave them a chance of beating relegation. They lost to Barcelona and Granada in their subsequent matches, but a 2-1 win against Sevilla on March 6 lifted them out of the relegation zone.
Elche faced Real Madrid at the weekend, and they were unlucky to lose 2-1. Dani Calvo handed them a 1-0 lead in the 62nd minute, only for Karim Benzema to equalise 12 minutes later. They looked destined to leave the Bernabeu with a precious point, only for Benzema to plunder a winning goal deep into stoppage time.
That result left Elche 17th, just one point above the drop zone, and they are still fighting desperately for survival. That makes them a dangerous team to face, but Sevilla really should have enough quality to exact revenge on Wednesday.
Sevilla have nine wins, one draw and three defeats from 13 home games this season. They have conceded just nine goals in that time. Meanwhile, Elche’s away form has been poor, with eight defeats from 13 matches on the road.
Lopetegui also has a lot more talent at his disposal than Escriba. Jules Koundé and Diego Carlos are both excellent defenders. Luis Ocampos, Papu Gomez and Joan Jordan are all wonderful playmakers. Youssef En-Nesyri is a dangerous striker, while Suso also has an eye for goal, and Luuk de Jong and Munir El Haddadi provide extra options in attack.
Fernando may miss out for the hosts, but Ivan Rakitic should be perfectly capable of anchoring the Sevilla midfield.
Elche do not have any significant injury problems right now, and they are playing with belief and desire. However, they are technically limited compared to Sevilla, which could prove to be their downfall at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
Sevilla dominated possession in that 2-1 defeat earlier this month, and simply could not make their dominance count. Yet there were mitigating circumstances, as they had just played in a gruelling Copa del Rey semi-final against Barcelona, and they had one eye on an upcoming Champions League clash with Borussia Dortmund.
They are now out of both competitions, and they can afford to focus 100% of their efforts on La Liga, so they should be able to pick up a narrow victory on Wednesday. Betway has even money (2.00) on Sevilla to win and under 3.5 goals, which looks appealing. However, if you think lightning can strike twice, Elche are priced at 8/1 (9.00) to win.