EUROPEAN football expert Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) unearths the value in Monday night’s La Liga offering between title-chasing Sevilla and Copa del Rey finalists Alaves.
Alaves v Sevilla | Monday 19:45 | Sky Sports 2
“The Barcelona job? That question has no answer because it doesn’t exist. I am connected with this sporting project at Sevilla to death.”
Jorge Sampaoli confirmed plans were afoot to extend his stay a with Sevilla beyond the end of his current deal in 2018 and refused to be drawn on links to him replacing the outgoing Luis Enrique at Barcelona last week.
The Argentine saw his side keep their title pursuit alive over the past week, picking up a valuable victory at rivals Real Betis before beating Athletic Bilbao on Thursday night. A sixth successive win across all competitions here would push the visitors back to within two points of table-topping Barca.
Sevilla aiming for history
Los Blanquirrojos have cumulated their best ever points total at this point of a season (55) and a tally that only Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have ever matched. Monday’s visitors are now dreaming of a first La Liga crown since 1946.
And why shouldn’t they? It’s been a remarkable seven months with Sampaoli in charge. Sevilla are favourites to reach only quarter-finals of the European Cup for the first time since 1958, ended Real Madrid’s record unbeaten run and have banished their away day blues of yesteryear.
Away blues banished
The Andalusians had failed to record a league triumph on their travels for 14 months before the ex-Chile national team boss turned up in the summer. Under Sampaoli’s stewardship, Sevilla have W7-D3-L3 in games as guests, become the first team to win at Las Palmas and the first side to win at Betis under Victor.
Los Blanquirrojos have notched in every La Liga outing since August and racked up nine wins from their last 11 league games – they’re playing with the same energy of earlier in the season but also with a clear sense of purpose and they make formidable opposition for any side.
Steven N’Zonzi, Pablo Sarabia and Nico Pareja are all back available from suspension and although Samir Nasri is banned, Vicente Iborra is an able replacement. Sevilla’s squad has depth, character and they’re superbly driven by conductor Sampaoli.
Alaves were beaten 2-1 in Granada in midweek, a game that saw both Alexis and Aleksandar Katai sent off in stoppage-time. Both players are therefore absent here as well as suspended Daniel Torres but Manu Garcia, Marcos Llorente and Victor Laguardia are back from bans to slot into central midfield and defence.
It’s fair to say that El Glorioso’s focus has shifted towards the Copa del Rey and why not. The hosts have only ever reached one cup final – the 2001 UEFA Cup thriller against Liverpool – and only four years ago were playing in the regionalised, four-division, 80-team, theoretically amateur Segunda Division B.
Since booking their place in the end-of-season extravaganza, results have been mixed (W2-D0-L2) whilst performances have lacked the energy and drive that usually characterises their play.
Mauricio Pellegrino’s men have fired blanks in four of their last nine and failed to score in half of their 12 contests at Mendizorrotza (W3-D6-L3) since promotion, including recently against high-flying Atletico Madrid and Barcelona.
The betting angle
Sevilla may have shipped a solitary strike in five but the visitors do tend to be involved in goal-heavy games- seven of their last eight on the road in La Liga have producing at least three goals with 9/13 (69%) featuring Both Teams To Score winners – so I wouldn’t be backing the away win ‘to nil’.
However, a selection that has caught my attention is Sevilla to win by exactly one goal at 27/10 (Betfair). It’s already proven profitable in 5/13 (38%) of Sampaoli’s side’s away games, whilst the odds suggest just a 27% chance of winning.
Only three of Alaves’ home fixtures have been settled by more than a single-goal margin, the home outfit have conceded more than one goal on only three occasions at Mendizorrotza and faced more than four shots on-target in only four home fixtures.
Alaves boast the organisational skills to stay competitive here but my ratings make Sevilla comfortably a top-four team with their hosts residing in the bottom-eight across the board in major performance data metrics.
Alaves v Sevilla – Sevilla to win by exactly one goal (27/10 Betfair)