When Real Madrid beat Barcelona in La Liga last weekend, everyone said it was a sign of a turnaround for Real Madrid. Not in La Liga, which is already well and truly lost, but in Champions, where the new-found confidence and hope spelt doom for everyone they might face on Europe’s biggest stage, most of all lowly Wolfsburg, who presumably were about to lose 10–0 on their own turf, Cristiano doubling his tally of the 27 goals he’d already scored this year in Europe.
And then they lost, 2–0.
I mention this not because Real Madrid needs more press, but because I’m assuming the inverse will be true for our heroes, who travel to Bilbao for the first leg in the quarterfinals of the Europa League after a frustrating 1–2 home loss to Real Sociedad. If this week’s logic holds, that’s a sign that Sevilla is about to do the opposite of Madrid’s pinchazo, and finish out this tie on away goals a week early, probably with a 0–4 victory.
If only Llorente had come to play a bigger role in Sevilla’s season, there would be such a juicy angle to play on this all-Spanish tie, but unfortunately Llorente is fairly unlikely to figure at all in these ties, or to play a peripheral one if he gets on the field at all. This probably won’t stop sports journalists from playing up the angle, but the story they should be telling is easily the one about the greatest rivalry the rojiblanco have faced all season: Sevilla vs. the away fixture, a duel that’s been so one sided this year that I’m not even sure it’s fair to call it a rivalry at this point.
Fortunately, Sevilla brings an essentially full-strength squad to face this unbeatable foe: Banega, Gameiro, Rico, Vitolo, Kono, Reyes, Nzoni, and basically everyone who at some point has been good this season is avaiable and making the trip to Basque country. I realize I’m predicting something that has never happened this entire season (and it could well be the nearly entire bottle of wine I consumed before sitting down to write this preview), but I say Sevilla wins tomorrow. With more than one away goal. Let’s do this.