It’s Thursday match day in Sevilla. Once upon a time, we were playing Europa matches from February to April on these dates. On one of those Thursdays our club’s most iconic goal was scored. Can you name it? Of course you can!
No, not M’Bia’s header to win it in Valencia on the last play. No, not Vitolo’s goal after 12 seconds at El Madrigal (still a Europa League record). Good guesses, though! It was Antonio Puerta who ripped his left foot through a bounding cross, splicing it around a defender and into the far netting. What I’ve always remembered is that Puerta takes the longest to react of anyone, hardly believing his 100′ strike could be sending Sevilla to their first final since the 1960s. It was 11 years ago today.
Collective memory is important, and we’ll hopefully make use of some of it today as we face a team we haven’t lost to in a couple years. Celta visits the RSP in a run of mixed form. They gutted out a long-suffering draw in Belgium to earn passage through to the Europa semis, where they will hopefully do La Liga proud against Manchester United. At home in La Liga they have little to play for as they sit 10th with 44 points–surely safe from the bottom and also surely adrift of the qualification for Europa. But hmm.. Let me think.. I know a certain team who has built recent success by not qualifying for European tournaments via the domestic league..
On Sevilla’s side, we’re in position to go level with Atlético if we can get all three points tonight. We have equally challenging runs through the last four fixtures of the season (@Málaga, R. Sociedad, @RM, Osasuna) compared to Atleti (@Las Palmas, @RM CL Semis, Eibar, RM CL Semis, @Betis, Athletic Bilbao), but Atleti have a much more compressed month with higher stakes elsewhere besides La Liga.
Our squad will be without Vitolo due to his injury against Valencia a couple weeks back, and Nasri makes his return at least to the bench. Sampaoli has helped Sevilla recover some of its early-to-mid season form and hopefully its toughness to fight through the final stages of the season after the Leicester Disaster (Leicester Dicester?) and humbling defeats to Atleti and Barcelona. We’ve won at home twice and drawn away at Valencia since then, with Correa, Sarabia, and Jovetic playing leading roles. Sarabia has been in tremendous form lately and has arguably been our best player in the second half of the season. He should enjoy himself against a team that gives up 2 goals a game away from home. Will we see Ganso again after his surprise inclusion and standout performance against Granada last weekend? Will we see a Puerta shirt on the bench today? Will Jovetic shave some of those whiskers?
This is why we’ve come to see you today, Sevilla! VAMOS!!