Sevilla started 2017 with a 3-0 loss against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey: A result that would surprise very few. After all, Real Madrid are used to scoring goals against other Spanish teams. However, when one look at Sevilla’s current form and their season, the result stands out. The Andalusian side had only lost three times in the past 17 games, two of which were against Juventus and Barcelona. Jorge Sampaoli’s team immediately bounced back with a 4-0 in La Liga over Real Sociedad followed by a 3-3 draw with Real Madrid in the second leg of the Copa del Rey and finally defeating Los Blancos 2-1 last week.
Sevilla closed the gap to just one point with the current league leaders. Despite Real Madrid playing one game less than Sevilla, it is extremely surprising to see a new competitor in the title race. In the past few seasons, we had been used to seeing Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid lead a three horse race but this season, Jorge Sampaoli is having his say even though his chances of winning the league are still low. The only time Sevilla came close to winning the title was in 2006-2007. They arrived in the final game with just two points less than both Real Madrid and Barcelona and they eventually lost the title.
Los Rojiblancos are not getting carried away though. Sevilla’s president Jose Castro Carmona has downplayed his side’s chances: ‘We are very satisfied but we have to keep our feet on the ground. We are realists, we do not give up on anything but our goal is to qualify to the Champions League.’
The five-time Europa League winners brought an end to Real Madrid’s 40-game unbeaten run and both Barcelona and Atletico Madrid managers Luis Enrique and Diego Simeone are fully aware that Sevilla is a real competitor in the title race. Sevilla finished second in their Champions League group, meaning they can no longer count on Europa League success for silverware this year. Perhaps this serves as a motivation for Sampaoli’s team and a chance for him to prove that Sevilla can be a real competitor domestically just like Atletico Madrid have been in the past few years.