Tensions mounting as Real Madrid return to Sevilla for key La Liga match

Seville, Jan 14 (IANS) Tensions will be high when Real Madrid return to Sevilla’s Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium on Sunday night for a game which pits the side second in the La Liga against the Spanish football league leaders.

It is the second time the two sides have met in four days and the third meeting in 10 and comes on the back of an incident as Madrid defender Sergio Ramos angered Sevilla fans with his celebrations after scoring a penalty which helped Madrid to a 3-3 draw in the King’s Cup on Thursday, reports Xinhua.

Ramos explained that his gesture was only aimed at Sevilla’s ultra ‘Biris’ supporters group, who had been insulting him, but the fact that the Madrid captain, who is from Seville and a former Sevilla player, chose to celebrate his goal in that way has not been well received in the Pizjuan and he can probably expect more of the same treatment on Sunday.

Real Madrid will see the return of midfielder Luka Modric, goalkeeper Keylor Navas, forward Cristiano Ronaldo and defender Dani Carvajal for their starting 11 after head coach Zinedine Zidane rested them in the Cup. Defender Pepe is a doubt due to fitness issues and forward Gareth Bale is still sidelined as he recovers from his ankle injury.

Sevilla kick off four points behind Real Madrid, who have also played a game less and although a win would drag Jorge Sampaoli’s side back into the title race. Victory for Real Madrid would see them open up a commanding lead at the top of the table a week before the season reaches its halfway stage.

The home side will also be at full strength for the game. The main doubt for Sampaoli is whether he starts with Wassim Ben Yedder, who scored a hat-trick a week ago, in attack, or whether he gives a start to new signing Stefan Jovetic, who marked his debut with a goal against Madrid on Thursday.

Should Madrid avoid defeat, they will set a new record of 41 games unbeaten. But more than the record, it will be the three points that matter on what promises to be a tense Sunday night in Seville.