After the stellar start to the season by Sevilla which included the immense performance against Barcelona, they have lost their last two games. They come into this game looking for the much needed after so as not to make it winless in three games.
Athletic Bilbao came into the game with only two wins and four losses in six games. They are part of a group of teams who haven’t drawn a fixture.
The game was a game of two halves as Sevilla dominated the first half, parts of the second half and subsequently created chances. However, due to the fixture congestion, fatigue waned in and led to the loss of concentration which Bilbao capitalised on.
Gaika Garitano lined-up Bilbao in his usual formation of 4-2-3-1 with three changes to the team that lost away to Osasuna. Iker Munian dropped for Jon Morcillo. Unai López dropped for Oier Zarraga. Mikel Balenziaga dropped from Yuri Berchiche.
Julen Lopetegui lined-up his team in his 4-3-3 formation. He made five changes to the team that lost at home to Elche. Óscar Rodríguez and Munir El Haddadi dropped for De Jong and Ocampos. In midfield, Gudelj and Óliver Torres made way for Fernando and Joan Jordán. Jules Koundé retains his starting spot after being dropped last week for Sergi Gomez.
How Athletic Bilbao high-pressed Sevilla
One of the main chance creation tactics from Athletic Bilbao was pressing Sevilla high in order to force turnovers. If not to force turnovers, Athletic Bilbao tried to stop Sevilla from building out of the back with short passes.
Athletic Bilbao pressed Sevilla high in a 4-3-1-2 shape. This shape was to counter Sevilla’s 4-1-2-3 build-up shape with a single pivot at the base which was Fernando.
Athletic Bilbao pressed in a man-oriented in midfield. The front two of Athletic Bilbao in the 4-3-1-2 press man-marked Sevilla’s pair of Koundé and Diego Carlos. The #10 marked the single pivot.
In midfield, Athletic Bilbao created a 3v2 overload on the 2 advanced midfielders of the 4-1-2-3. In the 3v2 overload, two Bilbao marked Sevilla’s two advanced midfielders while the third player marked the spaces between the advanced left-midfielder and the left-back.
On the right side, Athletic Bilbao marks the space between the Sevilla’s right-back and right-winger. This leaves somewhat of a three at the back for Athletic Bilbao they man-marked Sevilla’s front three.
As the game progressed on, Athletic Bilbao was able to capitalize on Sevilla’s fatigue and subsequent lack of concentration. Athletic Bilbao intensified their press so as to force turnovers which they easily came by as Sevilla kept giving the ball away.
This led to their second goal as Athletic Bilbao’s Munian pressed Sevilla’s Koundé who mis-controlled the ball as concentration levels started waning. It led to a transition by Inaki Williams who placed in a perfectly-timed far-post cross for to tap-in.
How Sevilla bypassed Athletic Bilbao’s high-press
Sevilla tried to bypass Athletic Bilbao in three ways. Sevilla sought to use these tactics to transit and create high-end chances.
In Athletic Bilbao’s pressing shame as described in the previous section, Sevilla’s front three mostly found themselves in a 3v3 or sometimes a 3v4 against Athletic Bilbao’s backline. This is due to the fact that the host’s left-back, Yuri Berchiche, pushed up to position himself properly so as to press Navas.
Sevilla utilised these 3v3 or 3v4 situations as the front three of Ocampos, De Jong and En-Nesyri were capable of aerial battles due to their height and physical. Therefore, Sevilla kept pumping balls into them.
Before Sevilla did this, they made sure they created the adequate spaces in between-the-lines for the front three. They did this by dragging out of position the 3v2 overload on Sevilla by dropping deep. This created the necessary space for Sevilla to win the first balls and second balls.
Apart from creating space for the Sevilla front three in-between the lines, the Sevilla advanced midfielder also exploited the spaces they had created by themselves.
They exploited the spaces by dis-marking themselves from their man-markers. In order for them to exploit these spaces, they made sure they dragged the midfielders out of position. The goalkeeper or Carlos will place a pass to the left-back Acuña. As Acuña receives the pass, either Jordán or Rakitić makes completes the dis-marking move by going in a reverse direction and attack the spaces which they had created. This will set in motion a good transition against Athletic Club stretched line.
Another way was the front three exploiting the spaces around the flank. They did this after manipulating the high-press of Athletic Bilbao.
Sevilla would draw Athletic Bilbao’s high-press to the far-right side. In other not to lose compactness completely, the right-sided midfielder of the midfield-three pushes so as to prevent a short pass back to Carlos.
However, this completely freed Acuña which meant he had much space and time. Sevilla found him on the ball-far side with their usual switches or a risky short passes from Koundé to Carlos and then to Acuña. In order to prevent Acuña from having much space and time, the right-back pushes up to press him. En-Nesyri follows this sequence to provide a short passing lane for Acuña. This creates space on the wings for De Jong to exploit. Acuña places a perfectly timed-run for De Jong to exploit as he makes his run.
How Sevilla attack and sought to carve out chances against Bilbao’s block
Athletic Bilbao sought to defend in a 4-4-2/5-3-2 block against Sevilla. However, the block wasn’t compact and left spaces within the block. Sevilla tried to exploit this through their usual wing-play and deliver crosses. They sort to create these wing-plays through overloads and underloads.
On the wings, they aimed to create passing triangles within a trio. The aim of these was to create these aforementioned crossing opportunities. These crossing opportunities could be cut-backs from the channels or whipped crosses from deep and the byline.
Here, this passing trio is evident between Acuña, Jordán and Ocampos. Fernando receives a pass and makes a pass out wide to Jordán. Ocampos spots this play and comes deep towards and half-space and completes the passing triangle by providing a passing option to Jordán. Ocampos attacks the half-space by making an underlapping run which gets spotted by Jordán who makes a diagonal inside pass towards Ocampos. Ocampos receives the ball and makes a perfectly-timed cutback towards En-Nesyri who slots it home.
In creating the crosses through the underloads, Sevilla firstly held width with either Acuña and Navas stretching play. Sevilla created these crossing opportunities through playing through the overload and switching with a ground diagonal pass. And switching with a long diagonal pass towards the wide area.
Here, Acuña holds width and stretches play. He receives a perfectly-timed switch from the Navas. He then places a nice whipped cross into the box.
As mentioned earlier, in order to create these underloaded crosses, Sevilla played through their overload and circulated the ball with short passes.
Here, Sevilla created and overload and was defended by Athletic Bilbao. Sevilla then resulted in dragging them out as they played a pass back to Koundé. Koundé finds Jordán in space as Bilbao’s block is stretched and disorganized. In Bilbao’s aim to capitalise and cause a turnover, they get stretched and Jordán plays a well-timed pass to Ocampos who creates a 2v1 numerical superiority over Berchiche as Navas holds width.
Ocampos receives the pass and plays an incisive pass through the defence line for Navas to latch on to. Navas gets there and delivers a floated cross back-post for En-Nesyri to head on-goal. Unfortunately, the chance was missed as Inigo Martinez clears his lines.
How Sevilla defended in their block and Bilbao sought to create chances
Sevilla defended in a more compact block than Bilbao. However, it was still not compact. Sevilla defended in a 5-4-1 block. Fernando dropped into defence to act as a central defender while Koundé acted as a right-sided centre-back and Carlos a left-sided defender. Ocampos and En-Nesyri dropped into midfield to complete the midfield four while De Jong acted as the lone striker.
Sevilla stretched their block to counter the width which Bilbao created. This left spaces centrally within their block. Also, they sought to defend against Bilbao’s wide overloads by remaining compact around the wings becoming less organized centrally.
Athletic Bilbao, as mentioned earlier, sought to create their chances through wide overloads and subsequently wing-plays that leads to crosses. Just in the same vein as Sevilla tried to create their chances. However, Bilbao was less effective.
Here, Bilbao creates a 4v3 on the right flank. They start and rotations and combinations with the aim of finding the right scoring space and angle. They eventually did by making a perfectly-timed through ball into and overlapping run who tend makes a far-post cross.
Sevilla dominated most part of the game and created better chances. However, they well let down by indecisiveness in front of goal, goal-line clearances and overall poor finishing. Apart from that, they were fatigued and lost concentration. This eventually led to bad defending and silly mistakes which gave away the goals. It was a painful game for Sevilla after coming off mid-week UEFA Champions League match against Rennes.
Athletic Bilbao capitalised on the fatigued Sevilla and picked up their intensity. They made the necessary changes early on the second half to bring in fresh legs against the tired legs of Sevilla. However, their play wasn’t good enough as their block was not compact, their attack wasn’t dynamic. But in all, they managed to secure the win.