Dembélé begins to shine
Both Copa del Rey finalists were in action this week in two matches postponed because of the final a few weeks back. And both made the most of it. Barça, now in party mode, thrashed Villarreal in an eye-catching tie where Dembélé shone – the Frenchman played well, making Coutinho’s goal and then helping himself to another two, the second of which was a beauty. After a year in which his price tag has weighed heavily on his shoulders and there has been little of note, last night his stock rose. Valverde has been easing him in gently, acclimatising him, and in my view he’s doing a good job at it. In truth, Valverde seems to get most things right.
Sevilla overpower Madrid
Sevilla responded to the challenge of Madrid coming to town in a rampageous game. They won and won handsomely, simply because their hearts and heads were in it more. Caparrós has energy surging through this side; his speciality. They set up to play long and direct, with two forwards, slightly disconnected from the wings, occupying the opposing centre-backs and creating danger every now and then. The rest of the game was about holding out at the back against a Madrid side who weren’t really up to that much, caught between the thunderclap of the Camp Nou and the prospect of Kiev, which is beginning to come into focus on the horizon. Whatever the case, Los Blancos lacked the passion Sevilla put into the game, and that was reflected in the outcome.
Zidane made a raft of changes. Ceballos was handed his chance but unfortunately failed to take it. Booed over his Betis roots, he went missing in the game – but in truth the flack he took was over another war being waged and bubbling away in the city as the Seville derby looms on Saturday. He wasn’t the only one who didn’t turn up; there were many more in a formation that never really clicked. At one point Madrid were 3-0 down and only managed to turn things around through a fine header by Borja Mayoral (one player who did make the most of his time on the pitch) and a slightly strange penalty converted by Sergio Ramos after he had missed his first. Ramos and Caparrós were the story of last night in Seville.