As Rene noted in his excellent mid-season recap post, the team has reached the halfway point of the season on a pace that will likely be enough to qualify for some flavor of European competition. As he also noted (seriously, go back and read it, it’s a great summary of where we’ve been, gone, and might be going), while this is more or less what most of us predicted at the start of the season, getting here has been anything but a straightforward journey. The late sale of Kondogbia, the impotence away from the RSP, and an almost literally entirely new squad meant that the team started slow (and low, even finding themselves in last place 5 weeks in) in getting to their present spot. It’s hard not to find yourself agreeing with Rene’s assessment that we’ve done pretty well but there’s plenty of reason to think the team is on an upward trend and may have yet better things in store in the season’s second half.
But of course, we start this block of games with a visit to an impossibly, disgustingly strong Atleti team. A team in such great form that they were last seen on the field with a Barca team that looked…pretty damn content with a 0–0 draw. And while Diego Costa hasn’t scored since a hat trick vs. Levante a month ago, it’s a good bet he sees his favorite foil Sevilla as a wonderful opportunity to retake the Pichichi from CR7. I would like to disagree with him but dude loves scoring against us. And he’s really good at it. I will use my famed tactical insight to posit that containing Mr. Costa, and not allowing him to rattle the CB’s, will be an enormous part of any success Sevilla might see in the Vicente Calderón. Also: Rakitic passing the ball to Bacca, and then Bacca scoring goals. (TACTICS!)
So on the one hand, Sevilla has been improving steadily these last months. And on the other, Atleti is and has been very good. Losing points away at the league leaders would hardly be a disaster, but even grabbing one would be a great start to the second half of the season. Vamos.