Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro insists they will not surrender La Liga just yet as they prepare to host Sevilla on Sunday.
Zinedine Zidane’s side battled to a 2-1 victory away to Las Palmas last week – with Casemiro heading in a late winner – but they remain 12 points behind leaders Barcelona with nine games to play.
Madrid were criticised for a lacklustre display in Gran Canaria, but the Brazilian insists maximum points are all that matter as they aim to keep their slim title hopes alive.
“We know we didn’t do well, but I’ll take the points,” Casemiro said. “There are days when we’re not able to do that.
“We’re criticised when we play badly because we’re the best team in the world.
“Of course La Liga isn’t over. We’ll fight to the end, even if it’s very difficult.”
On paper, Sevilla represent the ideal visitors to the Santiago Bernabeu to help Madrid recapture their swagger and keep their Liga aspirations alive.
Zidane’s side have not lost a home league game to Andalusian opposition since 2008 and Sevilla have endured dismal away form this season, having failed to win a single league match on the road in 2015-16 – something only Verona can match in Europe’s top five divisions.
Sevilla have enjoyed a morale-boosting week, however, having beaten top-four rivals Villarreal 4-2 last weekend before seeing off Basel to book a Europa League quarter-final showdown with Athletic Bilbao.
“I hadn’t enjoyed a performance from my team so much for a while,” Emery said after the win over Villarreal, which came despite Ever Banega’s red card. “Now the objective is to reach fourth place. It’s possible.
“It was important to win against a great rival, and we want to continue like this.”
Banega will sit out the game due to suspension, though Steven N’Zonzi is eligible again after serving a ban for the 3-0 win over Basel. Vitolo and Yevhen Konoplyanka (hamstring) are doubts, but Grzegorz Krychowiak could start for the first time in the league since January.
Madrid boast a clean bill of health, with Gareth Bale having been left out of Wales’ squad for the international break in order to allow him to regain full fitness at club level and Karim Benzema also expected to be ready to play.
Captain Sergio Ramos, who scored in the 3-2 defeat in November’s reverse fixture, is banned.
Key Opta Stats:
– Should Unai Emery not win this game, he would equal his worst run away from home as Sevilla boss (15 winless away games in 2013).
– There have been shown nine red cards in the last nine La Liga games at the Santiago Bernabeu between Real Madrid and Sevilla (four for Madrid and five for Sevilla).
– Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more goals against Sevilla in La Liga than against any other side (19, alongside Getafe).
– Sevilla have conceded the most shots in La Liga this season (419) and Real Madrid have fired the most (551).
– Sevilla have won half of their Liga games when Ever Banega has played this season (50 per cent) but the win ratio is 33.3 per cent without him in the side.