Miserly Sevilla to shut out top four rivals
Julen Lopetegui's Sevilla will be defending an enviable record of conceding just once in the opening four La Liga matches when Valencia come to the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium on Wednesday evening. The visitors, having played one more, sit in third at the time of writing, three points off leaders Real Madrid, but will have to contend with a slew of influential players against the league's joint meanest defence. It doesn't augur well for a goalfest, which will suit the hosts down to the ground. Read our preview here:
Lopetegui's only doubt is whether forward Suso will be fit enough to make the matchday squad. The former right-sided Milan wide man has had a stuttering start to the campaign, which hasn't negatively impacted too much on Los Nervionenses' fortunes on the pitch. Further rotation could be made up top as the balancing act of ensuring a tight defence and a productive attack whilst changing personnel leans a little more towards the latter, which could mean a start for Rafa Mir in place of Moroccan target man Youssef En-Nesyri and a night off completely for Erik Lamela. Elsewhere, the bulk of the praise has naturally fallen on the back four plus goalkeeper, with left-back Marcos Acuña being particularly good. The 29 year old rescued a point for his side with an assist in the away clash with Elche (the only goal they've conceded in the league), and can deal well with aerial balls lofted in behind him.
Veteran head coach José Bordalás has got off to an admirable start since joining at the start of the summer from Getafe, but has the unenviable task of breaking down the ramparts the hosts put up whilst also assembling an XI (missing five important components) capable of accomplishing that. The wider players in the 4-4-2 also double as defensive contributors, which should help at least make the visitors harder to play through down the flanks, making it a war of attrition in midfield. That is an area Valencia will be outnumbered in, making the contributions of, and supply lines to, the two strikers even more pivotal. Right winger Yunus Musah will be drafted in whilst Carlos Soler is out, and the youngster, already capped six times by USMNT since switching allegiances from England, will have to make sure he's involved in more than just one phase of play to pick out the likes of Gonçalo Guedes. The Portguese all-rounder has notched twice in five matches, and both his movement and playstyle make him that much more difficult for his marker to pick up. Any space he can find behind the backline will be quickly gobbled up, which probably represents their best chance of scoring from open play.
Lop on, baby
Being without Soler, Denis Cheryshev, and full-backs José Gayà and Cristiano Piccini hurts Valencia at both ends, especially in terms of creativity and an 'out' ball. bet365 have odds of 11.00 for a 1-0 win for Sevilla, and the set of ircumstances suggest that a low-scoring game is very much on the cards.