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The Rayo Report: Sevilla Atlético 0-0 Rayo Vallecano - Captains, carelessness and courage. (17th September, 2017)

Sevilla Atlético vs Rayo Vallecano. Starting lineups.
Míchel made two changes, both in defense, from the previous league game - a 3-0 loss to Osasuna - with Ernesto Galán and Antonio Amaya being replaced by Baiano and Emiliano Velázquez respectively.

Luis Tevenet also made two changes from their goalless draw at Huesca - Álex Pozo coming on for Miguel Olavide in attacking midfield. Surprisingly, there was a change between the sticks, with Juan Soriano taking the place of José Antonio Caro.

This was a game where Sevilla Atlético was clearly the better team, but didn't take their chances. Other than that, this was a game that both sides probably would want to forget - Rayo had zero shots on target and Sevilla Atlético had just 3.

Team structures

Sevilla Atlético may not have made many changes in personnel, but they did make a crucial player position change. Álex Pozo took the place of central attacking midfielder Miguel Olavide, meaning that Curro, a right winger, was playing in the center. The captain of Sevilla Atlético came head-to-head with Trashorras, the captain of Rayo, and largely won. A left-footed player, he would run into the space between Trashorras and Fran, while Marc Gual would run towards the right to try and distract Velázquez.

Too many times, Rayo were caught off-guard - the best example being in the 31st minute when Curro dispossessed Trashorras, ran towards the left, played a one-two with Gual but dragged his shot wide. It was coming though - just two minutes earlier Rayo were lucky not to concede a penalty when Santi and Baiano fouled Curro inches outside the box.

Aitor Cantalapiedra on the right and Álex Pozo on the left sat deep, and very often ran with the ball on the counter from within their own half. It didn't always work - they both had quite poor games - but there were flashes of brilliant from Pozo, who in the 24th minute skinned Trashorras for sheer pace and crossed the ball into the box for a wide-open Gual. Gual fumbled the shot, and generally had a poor game too - being too careless with his finishing. In the 10th minute, after a poor pass by Embarba, Gual picked up the loose ball in his own half, and ran through the center of the Rayo half, before dragging the shot wide. In the 59th minute, he was one-on-one with Alberto, but shot straight at him. All three players were, unsurprisingly, substituted.

Yan Brice was an absolute tank. Simply put, he was everywhere - and his worth ethic kept Fede from having to do much. The number of times he was able to dispossess players and create chances was staggering. Fede focused his energies on making late runs into the box, and distributing the ball in midfield - his lack of defensive work meant that Santi slipped through a couple of times, and his disallowed goal in the 21st minute was a result of that.

Rayo's attack was largely based on Embarba skinning José Matos and providing crosses - and in the 8th minute his cross met Trejo's late run into the box, who headed wide. In the 45th minute, he succeeded in getting past the entire right side - Pozo, Fede and Matos - and was able to get the cross in. Rayo's best chances came in the 56th and 57th minute, when Embarba and Baiano provided several dangerous crosses into the box. It's worth noting how difficult this was - Matos is quite a short player and his agility and pace are his strengths. Embarba constantly fouled the player, including a nasty on in the 54th minute.

Trejo's late runs became quite a feature, and he gave Álex Muñoz a terrible time. At times, Álex Muñoz pushed quite up the field, quite riskily in fact, and Juan Berrocal, an 18-year-old who was playing only his third senior game of his career, was forced to cover. To be fair, he did so admirably.

Aguirre didn't get past Carmona even once this game - Carmona's sheer pace meant that he could run up and make dangerous crosses and still be able to keep Aguirre quiet. His 6th minute cross into the "corridor of uncertainty" caused serious confusion in the Rayo defense. And in the 21st minute, Aguirre had a head-start and even then Carmona ran the race to retrieve the ball - it was a comfortable foot race for him.

The same could be said of Baiano, who was the third center-back in Rayo's "three" man defense, but also pushed up the pitch, won the ball high up and combined with Embarba dangerously well. Speaking of Rayo's defense, Velázquez was fantastic at not getting distracted by Gual, on focusing on his game, and being quick across the field to put out any potential fires. Dorado wasn't asked too many questions, and Moreno did surprisingly well to stay in the Rayo half this game - his defensive prowess has improved significantly.

A direct team against...a direct team?

Rayo played an unusually direct style of football, which required quick passing and decision making in theory. What actually occurred in practice was hurried passing and poor decision making - Embarba's aforementioned poor pass in the 10th minute, and Trashorras being dispossessed in the 31st, are just a few of many examples, including Alberto's constant use of long balls to Baiano.

It's worth noting that Trashorras had a very poor game today. Not just because Curro got past him easily, but because he looked generally slow and sluggish. Whether this was because he was tired, or because of Rayo's direct game, or because Rayo were playing direct because Trashorras was tired, it still looked surprising as a Rayo fan when Trashorras was subbed off.

Courage from Míchel

There is a fine line between braveness and temerity, and Míchel certainly toyed with the line.

After seeing it fail miserably against Tenerife, he decided to go for it again - the "midfielder on the wing" concept. Unai came on at half time for Diego Aguirre, who was injured. This was extremely questionable and seemed quite risky, particularly because of just how good Carmona had been.

Sevilla Atlético vs Rayo Vallecano. Second half (minutes 45 to 62).


And what followed, from them till the next Rayo substitution in the 62nd minute, was a period of volatility that really defined the game - the highlights, as mentioned before, were Embarba and Baiano's dangerous combination in the 56th and 57th minutes, and Gual's one-on-one in the 59th which caused a series of attempts on goal which Sevilla Atlético really should have capitalized on.

The second change from Rayo was replacing Trashorras for Raúl de Tomás, which meant that Rayo now had a striker to chase down balls. Clearly, he wasn't fresh, and his pressing seemed haphazard - but it gave the team some space to play with. It also meant that Fran and Unai were playing in their natural positions. They both had superb games, with Fran playing as a destroyer and Unai dictating the passage of play in midfield. Finally, Santi covering on the left wing during attack and dropping deep in defense was hard work, but just like last week he was excellent and worked incredibly hard.

Sevilla Atlético 0-0 Rayo Vallecano. Second half (minutes 63 to 90).

In hindsight, what seemed suicidal actually turned out to be a courageous move - Míchel was hoping that Moreno would take care of Carmona, and right winger Aitor/Juanje would be in the hands of Dorado. This was one-on-one to the quite literal extreme, but it paid off - Sevilla Atlético's right side was neutralized.

Conclusion

A game that, despite all the missed attempts and chances created, had 0-0 written all over it. Both teams will want to move on to the next game.

But it was fascinating seeing Luis Tevenet play Curro out of his natural position and as a number 10 - a tactical move that paid huge dividends. It was equally fascinating, however, seeing how much Moreno has improved defensively game after game.

It showed the projects that both coaches are currently working on - both their advantages and flaws. For Luis, it would be unleashing Curro into the star man, while the rest of the team adapts to his every move. As for Míchel, it seems to be a Pep Guardiola-esque utopia of having as many midfielders as possible, and have the wing-backs bomb up and down the pitch.

Time will tell whether they will succeed.

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