La Liga’s Saturday night fixture brought us the fierce El Gran Derbi between Sevilla and Real Betis. Whenever these two sides meet each other, there are expectations for a thrilling and exciting match. Last season, Betis were undefeated against Sevilla and even secured three points from a pulsating match in the first leg. The same happened at the start of this season as Joaquín scored the only goal to keep up Betis’ unbeaten run.
Sevilla entered this match wanting to end that Betis streak. At the same time, three points would put pressure on Getafe as the deficit between them would reduce to only a point. Joaquín Caparros’ side knew that a victory would move them into the Champions League spot.
For Real Betis, a win against Villarreal last weekend helped them narrow the deficit with Valencia to three points. Quique Setién wanted to continue the winning morale before they welcome Marcelino’s side as their tough run of fixtures continues.
The evening didn’t get off to an ideal start for the visitors when Munir El Haddadi opened the scoring early on. Giovani Lo Celso maintained his prolific form by scoring the equaliser after 55 minutes, but Pablo Sarabia and Franco Vázquez secured the game for the home side. Cristian Tello’s late goal proved to be just a consolation as the match ended with a 3-2 scoreline.
This tactical analysis will help you take a closer look at how Sevilla outplayed Betis in the second half. In the meantime, using statistics, we will analyse what helped Caparros’ side secure three points over Betis.
Caparros decided to shake up his team after their 2-0 win against Real Valladolid a week ago. In goal, former Basel man Tomáš Vaclík replaced young prospect Juan Soriano after returning to fitness. Gabriel Mercado paired up with Daniel Carriço at centre-back while Jesús Navas filled in Mercado’s right-back place. On the opposite side, Sergio Escudero replaced Holland international Quincy Promes.
There was only one change in the midfield as Maxime Gonalons swapped his place with Roque Mesa. Wissam Ben Yedder continued to play alongside ex-Barcelona forward Munir, who scored the second goal for Sevilla at José Zorilla.
Real Betis had two changes to their side. Sídnei returned to the lineup, he replaced Marc Bartra as the left centre-back. On the same wing, Cristian Tello was dropped on the bench for Júnior Firpo. Up front, Lo Celso had a great game for Betis but couldn’t save his side from a loss. Jesé Rodríguez came close to a goal several times but was left to rue his many missed chances.
Sevilla’s style of play
Against a possession-oriented team like Betis, Caparros instructed his players to create a medium block in their own half. Sevilla wanted to cut any passes that could start an attack or reach the final third. Alongside that, they also adopted a narrow defensive structure. This allowed them to shift along with the ball and intrigue the press whenever possible.
In this structure, we mainly see Vázquez located higher than other midfielders. He joined up with Munir and Ben Yedder up front and formed the first defensive line. Meanwhile, Sarabia would tuck in to fill in the space that Vázquez left behind. This was the second defensive line and they acted as a shield in front of Sevilla’s defence.
Another aspect in Sevilla’s lineup is how Caparros chose his wing-backs. He acknowledged Lo Celso and Jesé’s attacking threat between the channels and he wanted his players to close them down. On the left side, an attacking-favoured Promes was replaced by a defensive-minded Escudero. His responsibility was to support the centre-backs and closed the spaces between him and Carriço.
The home side also tried to hold a majority of possession at the start of the game. They wanted to create an early impact and stunt Betis in the first half. As shown by the graph below, they clearly accomplished what they were out to achieve. Between the 16th minute and 30th minute period, they held 61% of possession and they opened the scoring through Munir’s goal in the process.
After that, we can see a significant drop in Sevilla’s possession. When the first half ended, they only held 35%. It clearly showed Caparros’ intention to drop the tempo and keep their lead. Betis capitalised on this fact and continued to hold possession in the second half. But this advantage didn’t help Betis in controlling the game although they did score two goals after the break.
There are two reasons for Sevilla’s drop in possession. Firstly, Sevilla players tended to dribble in most situations rather than using passes. An example of this is when the home side tried to build attacks from the back. Carriço and Mercado weren’t good at playing long passes and they had to rely on wing-backs. The ball would be distributed widely, usually for Escudero, and he would dribble his way up to the halfway line. The stats also demonstrated this fact, as Sevilla players completed seven out of nine dribbles they attempted.
Secondly, Caparros has adopted a high-tempo style of play ever since he was appointed to replace Pablo Machín until the end of the season. The players favoured short passes and they would move the ball quickly when entered the final third. They only registered 44 long passes compared to a total of 318 passes throughout the match.
Returning to Munir’s goal, what made it special was the intelligent movement of the Barcelona youth product. Betis attempted to overload the box in this situation with six players, including two who were closing down Sarabia. However, his decisive cross was out of reach for all Betis’ defensive players. In the meantime, Munir distracted Sergio Canales to get goal-side in a second to escape and was free to score the opening goal.
With the one-goal lead in the first half, Sevilla entered the second half with high confidence. The lack of possession did hold them back a little bit, as they were forced to focus more on defending. Betis’ pressure forced Sevilla’s defensive line to attempt to narrow down spaces between the defensive players. Jesé capitalised on their struggles to create a great chance, as will be looked at in more detail later.
When in possession, Sevilla tended to attack down the wings. Caparros had a reason to play Navas as a right-back. He wanted to utilise his crossing ability to support Sarabia and allowed the ex-Getafe man to cut inside. These two made five and three crosses respectively throughout the match, which was the highest and second highest compared to their teammates. At the same time, the strikers would drift wide to provide a passing option.
A perfect example of Sevilla’s attacking style of play in this match is Sarabia’s goal. Once again, Betis attempted to overload their own final third in this situation. They were beaten by the intelligent movement of Ben Yedder and Sarabia. Both have noticed the spaces behind Betis’ defensive line and they immediately looked to take advantage.
During the latter stage of the game, Sevilla changed their defensive structure into a 4-4-2. Vázquez was subbed off for Aleix Vidal, a more defensive-minded winger. He was instructed to hold the line and close Junior Firpo down. They created a two-layer defensive structure and prevented Betis from making passes towards Vaclík’s goal. They succeeded in keeping the 3-2 scoreline, preventing an equaliser, at the same time ending Betis’ undefeated streak in El Gran Derbi.
Betis’ style of play
As you would expect from Setién’s side, Betis approached the match with a high-tempo pressing style of play. Up front, the strikers followed the centre-backs and Canales marked Escudero whenever the ex-Schalke man dropped deep. They wanted to suffocate the ball-carrier’s passing options and prevent them from dribbling up to the halfway line.
However, there was a different point compared to Betis’ usual style of play as they pressed more conservative. Setién still adopted a man-to-man marking system in this match. But he limited to having only one Betis’ player closing down a Sevilla player instead of two. This would help the players control the spaces around them more easily and prevent any movements that came from Sevilla players.
Betis also played with a high defensive line while the strikers pressed the centre-backs. As mentioned earlier, Betis’ players attempted to suffocate the passing options that the ball-carrier had. He had no choice but to play a long ball up front to the strikers. Usually, it was cleared due to the centre-backs’ aerial superiority. In total, Betis’ centre-backs registered eight clearances, that is one-third of the team’s total. They also made five interceptions in the process.
Playing against Sevilla’s medium block, Betis were happy to circulate the ball between the defenders and the midfielders. They created what is called “a pressing bait”. When they retained the possession inside their own half, Sevilla players were tempted to go higher up the pitch for the ball. As there were three centre-backs, the away side would push the same amount of players to press them. Meanwhile, William Carvalho and Andrés Guardado would drop deep to provide a passing option and they dragged along two players.
The aim was to minimise the number of players inside Sevilla’s half and creating spaces for the strikers to exploit. Lo Celso, Jesé and Firpo were specialists in this kind of situation. He would pick up a long ball from Aïssa Mandi and waited for a teammate to move in space. A through ball was then executed and Jesé would sprint towards Vaclík’s goal.
Another method that helped Betis’ build their attacks was through crosses. Emerson and Firpo have proven to be great crossers throughout the season and Setién wanted to utilise their ability. As expected, those two registered a total of six crosses, while their replacements, Cristian Tello and Joaquín, managed just two less despite playing less time.
Betis’ main problem throughout the match was their lack of precision in converting chances. Betis registered seven shots on target, but their highest xG chance was Jesé’s, which stood at 0.5. Lo Celso’s goal (marked in blue) only stood at 0.05 and Tello’s goal was 0.15. Although they were solid in defence, the strikers were letting them down at the final hurdle.
Once again, El Gran Derbi didn’t let us down. Sevilla and Betis have treated us with a tremendous and thrilling performance that ended with five goals. Three points secured from this match helped Sevilla moved into the Champions League qualification places. Their style of play might seems attractive, but there are some downsides that need to be fixed. That is what Caparros, or his replacement, will need to think about next season. For now, their mission is to secure that Champions League playoff spot at the end of the season.
For Real Betis, the result makes their hope of qualifying for the Europa League even more unrealistic. The lack of clinicality in front of goal was the main reason for Betis’ loss and Setién must think of the solution for this if he wants to keep his Europa League hope alive.
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