Football Features

“Toni Kroos is still sleeping soundly” – Five things learned as Sevilla hold Real Madrid to a draw leaving La Liga in Atlético’s hands

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 22:38, 9 May 2021

In an exciting night of football, Real Madrid and Sevilla drew 2-2 and left the destination of La Liga in Atlético’s hands.

Sevilla twice took the lead only to be twice pegged back by Los Blancos, once in stoppage time. This just one day after Barcelona and Atlético Madrid played out a 0-0 draw at Camp Nou. What did we learn?

1. Zidane’s Midas touch not enough

The big joke around Real Madrid is that everything Zinedine Zidane touches turns to gold no matter how absurd it seems. This is a manager who showed up and won three straight Champions Leagues in his first two and a half seasons as Real Madrid manager. In his first full season the club won their first continental double since 1958! He even left the club, came back and then won them La Liga yet again!

Tonight, we saw Zidane’s Midas touch at work yet again. With Los Blancos chasing the game with Luka Modric and Toni Kroos running the show, Zidane opted to take Modric off for Marco Asensio. Removing the experience and excellence of Modric seemed unwise, yet literally a minute later Kroos threaded a pass through to Asensio who with his second or third touch since coming on rattled Real Madrid level.

Then later on he sent Eden Hazard into the fray. The Belgian has been a hugely divisive figure in the Madrid media due to having the audacity to smile when talking to friends (which proved a handy distraction talking point after their Champions League elimination).

And guess who scored Madrid’s stoppage time equaliser? And not even with a shot, either! Hazard simply stuck his leg out at Toni Kroos’ shot and deflected it beyond Bono in the Sevilla goal (it might have been an own goal but if it was then it was only because of Hazard that Diego Carlos made the move that ended up deflecting the ball).

It was an incredible goal, but not enough to get the win. Despite Zidane’s bewitching Midas touch Madrid could only draw, but the point at the very least means that Los Blancos are only one game back from Atleti atop the table.

2. Ivan Rakitic: rival killer

Ivan Rakitic can always be relied upon to play well against Real Madrid. Even when he had lost his way with Barcelona and was beginning to look like a weak link, he would turn up in Clásicos and dominate his more illustrious compatriot Luka Modric.

While that didn’t exactly happen today, the Croat did play well as Sevilla played a more structured, defensive display and tried to hit Los Blancos on the break. Rakitic completed 41/43 passes (95.3%) and created a team-high 2 chances for his side including a deliciously deft assist for Sevilla’s opening goal. Moreover, when someone had to step up and score what looked like a winning penalty, it was Rakitic who did so with no hesitation.

Rakitic now has 5 goals against Real Madrid, which is the joint-most (along with Real Betis) that he has scored against any opponent. For a Sevilla and Barcelona player, that shows he is a master of derby goals (he also has 4 goals against Espanyol). A relentless big game performer.

3. Toni Kroos is Mr. Sandman

Before the Champions League second-leg, Toni Kroos said he doesn’t lose sleep over any of the individuals in the Chelsea side. Well actually, what he said was that he has “never lost sleep” over any opponent in his career, and given he’s played against the best player of all-time and perhaps the best national side ever as well, there was no need for Mason Mount to take it as a slight.

But take it as a slight he did, and after Chelsea eliminated Los Blancos he piped up saying that Madrid “need to lose sleep over us as a team.” Kroos’ reply was, like his play, very calm and collected. Reasserting his initial position, congratulating Mount while reminding him (and everyone) that Kroos has played in and won multiple Champions League finals.

And today, in the first game after all the noise, Toni Kroos ran as quiet and efficient as the most cutting edge of electric cars. The German was excellent throughout the game, completing a ridiculous 104 of 109 passes as well as creating a joint game-high three chances. He bagged a ninth assist of the season when he nervelessly threaded the ball through to Marco Asensio for the first equaliser and the second equaliser also came from his boot as it was his shot deflected into the net. Someone tweet Mason Mount and let him know despite his comments, Toni Kroos is still sleeping soundly.

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4. Lopetegui getting closer

Sevilla have not beaten Real Madrid away from home in La Liga for 14 seasons, but they came oh so close to getting manager Julen Lopetegui the perfect revenge over his former club. The Spanish coach’s previous games against Real Madrid were not really close, but this one was really impressive.

Sevilla came to the Bernabeu looking to be proactive. They smartly exploited Madrid’s lack of organisation at defending set-pieces (which is where they miss Sergio Ramos and especially Raphael Varane) to score once and then also create a penalty. Lopetegui didn’t just throw defenders on to try and shore things up at the end and in the end was only undone by a lucky deflection.

It’s now four games against Real Madrid without a win, but Julen Lopetegui is getting closer.

5. Barcelona rue their slips as Atleti close in

10 days ago, Barcelona had La Liga well in their own hands. All they had to do was win all of their games and they would be champions again. Then they somehow lost at home against Granada. A miserable display (after taking the lead, too) that suddenly left things outside of their grasp. But they had another chance to really apply pressure by beating Atlético Madrid in their title clash.

Then they… didn’t. They had such an atrocious first-half that even when they rebounded in the second period they could not force their way through with a shocking lack of presence up-front. A 0-0 draw all but ended their title race, but did also seem to open things up for Real Madrid to take advantage and put La Liga in their own hands.

But as we know, Sevilla prevented that from happening with a draw. So the standings stay as they were with Atleti needing to simply win all their games to be crowned champions. But with one key factor now different: Diego Simeone’s men do not have to play any of their title rivals. Their toughest game is at home against Real Sociedad, and they end the season away to relegation battlers Valladolid, but honestly they are three games they should win and thus you have to say they look like winning their first La Liga title since 2014.