Sevilla can go top with a win over Valencia with Barcelona playing later in the day, but Los Che will provide a stern challenge.
The matchdays go by, and Sevilla continue to maintain their title challenge in this hugely entertaining La Liga season. They have picked up seven points out of a potential 12 against the rest of the top six (they have yet to play Atletico Madrid), so they’re more than capable of beating the top teams. Pablo Machin has had a major impact with his 3-5-2 system since joining the club in the summer, although squad depth could prove to be an issue for them.
Valencia managed to finish in the fourth Champions League spot last season as Marcelino had a similar impact in his first season as Machin is having now. However, this season has seen them struggle as they’re currently down in 14th place with just three wins so far, although they have drawn eight times.
The solid defensive platform their success was built on is still intact, but poor finishing has cost them dearly with only 11 goals scored from 20.35 xG, per Understat. They actually have the fourth highest xG, as well as the lowest xGA in the division, which shows how significantly they’re underperforming.
Valencia have been hard to beat at home with only one loss, but they also only have one win there in the league this season. Sevilla have been one of the better sides away from home with 11 points from seven games, although that isn’t formidable form. Los Hispalenses have lost four of the last five league meetings at the Mestalla, so this will be a tough test for them. They haven’t lost in the league since October, though, and that was against Barcelona at Camp Nou.
Sevilla have often used a 3-5-2 system with Pablo Sarabia as a central midfielder. Sarabia provides an extra threat on the counter while also having the discipline to be part of the defensive shape and help block off central areas. Valencia’s willingness to sit deep in a low block could see Machin decide to use Roque Mesa in midfield instead of Sarabia, so they are better at ball retention and can patiently probe for openings.
Valencia will use their usual 4-4-2 formation with the priority being to maintain a strong defensive shape to absorb pressure and then quickly break on Sevilla. Goncalo Guedes will be key in this area due to the space behind the wing-backs as well as his pace and dribbling ability.
Maxime Gonalons and Jesus Navas are both out injured, but Sevilla have more than capable alternatives in both those areas. Los Che are boosted by the return of Denis Cheryshev so they have another dynamic wide option alongside Guedes. Rodrigo is a doubt due to a muscle injury, but Valencia have plenty of options with Santi Mina and Kevin Gameiro likely to start. This is a big match for the French striker against his old team.
Ever Banega will be crucial in this match due to Valencia’s organized and well-drilled defensive shape being tough to break down; his creativity from deep will be needed to carve out openings and get the wing-backs in behind the opposition where they can turn the defense. Geoffrey Kondogbia and Dani Parejo will be important in dictating the tempo when in possession to ensure Valencia aren’t under constant pressure while also breaking up play and protecting the central areas.