I was reflecting this weekend as I pondered the scoreline of Sevilla’s latest away defeat (this time at lowly, crappy, utterly awful Valencia) that probably my favorite thing about the Europa League is that it’s a competition you can win without ever winning on an opponent’s field. I mean, if you were going to dream up a competition and customize it for Sevilla, that is the one attribute it would have, right? This season Sevilla has essentially been conducting an experiment to see how much success a team can have if, theoretically, they are a very good team at home and a really bad one on the road. The answer thus far appears to be “very little success”.
Of course, Sevilla abandoned the experiment in Europa last week when they won. A game. Away. From the RSP. I have looked up this fact on 6 different occasions over the past week, and it’s absolutely true: they really did beat Athletic Bilbao 1–2. Two away goals! And a win! If you’re a Sevilla fan you’re probably not familiar, so I’ll clue you in–that’s a really good thing!
Of course, the tie is far from decided, but it’s obviously tilted heavily in Sevilla’s favor. Athletic are absolutely capable of scoring 2 goals at the RSP, and I think this game will feel anxious for most of the 90 minutes, but I think Sevilla pulls this out, and I think they’ll score a goal as well. I hope Unai doesn’t play for the shutout but rather tries to keep Athletic pushed back a bit, although I like KG’s chances for a counter if Athletic is pressing. And also, I mean…this is Sevilla, in the Europa League. I won’t claim the team is somehow preternaturally dominant and unbeatable, but I will say that this tournament has a long history of bringing something special out of this team. We’re gonna do this.
What about you all? Any expectations? Any tactics or lineup choices you’re especially dreading? Let your voice be heard!