CL Preview: Leicester City @ Sevilla

It’s finally here. Our first Champions League knockout match since 2010. Leicester City, the Champions of the English Premier League, who breezed through the easiest group of the Group Stage, is visiting the Sanchez Pizjuan today. They’ve been kind of a disaster recently, both in the league and in the domestic cups.

Despite only really losing NGolo Kante over the summer, Leicester brought in a few big money signings in Islam Slimani, Ahmed Musa (who would have been a fantastic fit here IMO), and Wilfred Ndidi to reinforce their squad depth and try to maintain their position as a club who can at least compete for another European spot and at worst finish in the top half of the table. That hasn’t happened. They’ve been bounced out of both domestic cups and somehow slipped into a very tight relegation battle. Losing Mahrez, Slimani and Daniel Amartey for over a month to the African Cup of Nations certainly didn’t help.

But it seems like everyone on this team is out of form. Mahrez hasn’t been able to consistently produce the moments of magic he did last season. Vardy hasn’t been able to create or finish the chances that made him a nightmare to centerbacks last season. Huth and Morgan have returned back to earth, and Danny Drinkwater has not looked the same without Kante next to him.

For Leicester, both Islam Slimani and Leonardo Ulloa are doubts to be fit today. Expect Kasper Schmeichel in goal and the usual backline of Simpson, Huth, Morgan and Fuchs. Central midfield will include Drinkwater and Ndidi, and maybe Daniel Amartey too depending how defensive Leicester wants to play. Mahrez will be on one wing, with either Albrighton or Demarai Gray on the other. The forwards will be some combination of Vardy, Musa and Shinji Okazaki.

For Sevilla, the squad is Rico, Soria, Mariano, Carrico, Lenglet, Rami, Escudero, Kranevitter, Iborra, Nzonzi, Nasri, Vitolo, Sarabia, Mudo, Correa, Ben Yedder, Vietto, and Jovetic. Obviously, the biggest omission from that list is Nico Pareja, especially given how disastrous our passing out of the back has been over the last few matches. That said, the CB pairing of Rami and Lenglet has managed to keep 3 straight clean sheets. As I see it, there’s only really two spots that are up for grabs. Rico will start in goal, with Mariano, Rami, Lenglet and Escudero along the back line. Nasri and Nzonzi will start in the middle, with Vitolo on one side and Jovetic as one of the strikers. That leaves two spots for Sarabia, Mudo, Ben Yedder and Iborra. Given that Iborra seems to be Sampaoli’s favored first sub, my guess is we see Mudo and Sarabia, with Ben Yedder’s recent dip in form pushing him to the bench.

This is a huge opportunity. We cannot afford to overlook Leicester. And we really have to be wary of runs into the channels and in behind. That has been an issue for us most of the season, and Leicester is so proficient at exploiting that weakness that they won a league title last year doing it. They will give us as much possession as we want, but we really cannot afford the stupid giveaways out of the back that we’ve been doing the last couple weeks.



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  1. Speaking to friends at the game who said what I suspected watching on TV… the 2nd goal killed the intensity from us, and even the fans were not as up for it, almost sat back in their seats relaxed, and expected 3 or 4.

    Leicester sensed our weakness on and off the pitch and went for it…

    Overall a fair result, but we need to give 100% in the away tie or they have the potential to run over the top of us (as they have did to Man City at home in December)

    It is not in our style to play for 0-0, and it is also a high risk tactic, so at least one away goal will be absolutely vital over there.

    1. Samp applied that 0-0 tactic vs. Villarreal away (2nd La Liga match), vs. Juve and vs. Lyon both away in CL group stage. The only 0-0 where we didn’t settle for it was vs. Villarreal at home, unlucky with Nasri’s pen and some great chances.

      Anyway, it will definitely be a high risk tactic, though I doubt he will change it and still go for it. We started the season in a crazy way, then from the 2nd game we risked less and less. Both good and bad, but it will be nuts to try and keep a draw in the return leg of this tie… just not the Sevilla we know!

      I wish we’d had Emery from this stage onward, and let Sampaoli manage the team in La Liga :p

  2. I agree with Rene. It’s disappointing that they scored and the way the match finished! However, we still won the match and take a lead to Leicester. I personally think it will benefit us playing away and we will get more space to counter them. They need an early goal but if we remain focussed and play smart, we will prevent that and then the pressure will build on him and our quality will hopefully shine through.

    I think we missed sampaoli not being on the touch line. The way he bounces up and down like a kangaroo, the players missed it. He will be back for the 2nd leg. Yes he made a mistake taking correa off for Iborra. Should have went braver to kill the tie.

    However, we played great in 1st half and overall but the drop off at periods in 2nd half led to a costly goal to concede. However, anyone watching the game tonight knows who the better team is and I think we will prove it in 3 weeks time. It’s a bit dangerous but I have faith in this team to get the job done! 🙂

  3. Lol the classic Sevilla way. But this was another example of how we fail to seal the deal when we’re dominating teams. If it were against tougher opposition it would’ve been worse. This was the case when we dropped points at Gijón, and in our game against Barça. But this is season 1 (hopefully not the last) under Sampaoli, so there will be growing pains, especially with the players.

    I initially liked the inclusion of Tucu, but he’s proving to lack mental strength. His play is very individual when he’s on the ball. I’m not gonna right him off, but he still has a lot to learn. Good on him to get us the eventual winning goal on that break. Jojo is so clutch!

    I think Vitolo was one of our best threats with his direct way of playing. Simpson will have another busy night in the return leg. Who knows which Leicester will be awaiting us then, but we’ve only failed to score in 5 of 34 games this season. The pressure is still on the foxes.

    For some reason it feels as if we still haven’t found our best XI. I could say we have a strong 10, but that 11th player is constantly changing. Sarabia is on fire right now, but Ben Yedder hasn’t scored since his hat-trick at Celta. Mudo is still a bit average, Iborra is always a roll of the dice, and Vietto is a forgotten man.

    Well, the focus is now on the derby. It will be important to avoid a CL hangover, as the likes of Bayern, PSG, and now Real Madrid have all dropped points after a midweek triumph. I hope Lenglet’s injury isn’t too serious as we might have yet again a defensive crisis on our hands.

    1. Interesting points Edinho, agreed on most.

      RM didn’t lose their match after CL (they won it vs. Espanyol), they lost the second league match after CL, the one they had to play in December vs. Valencia but they were in Japan playing for Club World Cup so it was postponed.

      Bayern couldn’t give two craps as their main opponent for the title is RB Leipzig, whom they’ve comfortably beaten.

      PSG well… Emery is Emery, the league is second choice for them now. Though it is very interesting how Emery was transformed from a league manager to a cup manager. He was always ending in the 3rd place in La Liga with Valencia, then one day their management decided they’ve had enough and kicked him out. He always failed to do anything in CL and went out early in the group stages. Then since 2013, everyone fears him in Europe. Would not be surprised to see PSG win the CL and end 3rd in the league… it’s Emery’s style!

      Lenglet was very solid tonight… no one could pass through him. A pity he was injured but I guess it’s just a minor injury. With Mercado and Pareja back, we will have a way safer defense, though Carrico didn’t do bad but he is not 100% so couldn’t trust him in important matches as of yet.

  4. It’s very clear that we had no nominated penalty taker for tonights’ game.
    I have Just been watching the in-depth summary of the match on Spanish tv and what they picked up on re the penalty and showed over and over again using different camera shots not used during the live transmission is worrying.

    As soon as the ref blew his whistle Jovetic grabbed the ball and was clearly going to take it only for Sarabia to approach him and demand that he should let him have it. While the two of them squabbled over who was going to take the pen Correa snatched the ball from Jovetic, walked away with it and then Vitolo had to step in and keep the peace.