How perspectives change. 148 days ago we beat Juve and slumped back into Europa. As a fan, I was not thrilled at the grueling 11-match months that stretched out before us in this competition, and, given the odds I preferred to fight for CL qualification in La Liga instead of straining for that elusive balloon ride at the end of the longest yellow brick road. But here we are sitting one match from the final. I can hardly believe it. There is no overstating how special this competition is to us, and how it may yet yield a CL harvest for all this toil.
I’m sitting here thinking about the possibility of not making it to the final after tomorrow, and I just can’t conceive of it. I suppose Sergio Rico could pull a Beto v Zenit last year (shudder), but nah. This team has played so many of these matches together over the last three years that there is absolutely no way we should lose this tie. The likes of Carriço, Iborra, and Gameiro having played 52, 36, and 36 games in the competition puts us on the steadiest footing out there. There are also the 41 games of experience for Reyes’ appendix, but it’s probably a simpler list to talk about who’s had less than 10 Europa league appearances than to mention everyone who’s had 20 or more.
So Shakhtar gave us a great run in the first leg; they bossed us in first half and made Vitolo’s 7th minute goal feel like it happened in a different decade. They stuck in two goals during those 40 furious minutes. Seeing us up against the ropes was difficult, so here’s to hoping those were their best shots.
We’ll need to score, no doubt. We’ve seen Shakhtar flash danger, and I don’t think any Sevilla fan would feel comfortable riding a 0-0 all game. Gameiro should be well-rested to frolic and scamper about; both he and Banega had the weekend off. Kolo has been cleared to play after a blow to the head in that Espanyol loss, and Tremoulinas trained fully with the team today. At the time of this writing, no list of 23 had been set, so it’s yet to be seen if Emery will consider the left back’s fitness level up to his expectations. Take your lineup guesses! Or do like Master Emery and shake that Magic 8 Ball!
150 days ago I thought mehh, but now… 3 finals, 3 years? I think fucking VAMOOOOSSSSSS!!