As the dust barely begins to settle from Sunday’s epic encounter, Europa League action returns to Nervión in what now feels like a perfectly normal thing to do on a Thursday night. The UEFA propaganda boards and Swiss supporters have been arriving steadily all week, and there is a palatable buzz of excitement in the bars and streets around the stadium. The sun has been shining, the cervezas flowing…. yip! things are perfectly set up for another drama filled European night under the lights.
There is also added anticipation as the outcome of the tie hangs in the balance, all thanks to last week’s 0-0 disappointment in Basel, a game in which we would have dearly loved to have scored an away goal, not to mention finish with 11 men. As it was though we didn’t do either, which makes tonight’s task as clear as it could ever be. Score more goals than the other team to go through. Simple, right? To be fair, it is something that we have been more than capable of doing at home for quite some time now (16 consecutive wins, which is quite an incredible achievement for any team). Keeping that run going tonight has the extra incentive of confirming our place in the quarter finals. One step closer to another final!
The only other way of qualifying would be from the penalty spot in a dreaded shoot out. That scenario however, would require that we play for 2 full hours without seeing one goal scored by either team, and I am quite confident that won’t be the case. For better or for worse, Atletico Madrid we are not.
As last week showed, Basel are not to be taken lightly, and they have already caused some big european upsets in recent years. They are also streets ahead in their domestic league, and should have no problems winning the championship at a canter. Like us however, they are often forced into selling their best players to teams with more resources (most recently Mohamed Elneny to Arsenal), so are therefore not as consistent as they’d like to be. We can all relate to that feeling. They still have some dangerous players to watch out for though, and will provide our depleted team with a tougher test than we would perhaps like at this stage. They also ran out 4-2 winners at the weekend (our last two league results have been identical), and should be feeling confident of finding the net again tonight.
We have some well documented and high profile injury problems, so will be without Vitolo, Konoplyanka, and Kyrchowiak, whilst N’Zonzi serves his suspension. So our offensive side practically picks itself, but as always, who knows with Emery.
Predicted starting XI:
Coke Rami Kolo Tremo
Reyes Banega MKD
I would be surprised if we see anything different with the front 4, but in defensive midfield maybe Carrico will be asked to play from the start instead of either Cristóforo or Iborra (neither of which fill me with much confidence to honest). Both players need a leader beside them, whether it be Kyrcho or N’Zonzi, and I am not too sure I fancy them playing together. I hope I am proved wrong if that is the case.
I am also concerned that Reyes won’t have the stamina to last for 90 minutes, or one of our forward players suffers an injury. Mariano, Diogo, and Escudero could all fill in as wingers in the worst case scenario, but it really isn’t something we would want to do unless we absolutely have to. Banega will need to rise to the challenge and take control. He will also be expected to play for the entire game since he has Sunday evening off.
Also, I wouldn’t be too surprised to see Llorente start this one, with Gameiro brought on in the second half. He ran himself into the ground on Sunday, and will be need for this coming Sunday also. I personally hope Gameiro starts though, as I always feel more confident when he is on the park.
So given our depleted squad, and the undoubted strength of Basel, I am going to predict a narrow and nervy win, perhaps even coming from behind!
Sevilla 2 Basel 1
Banega y Gameiro
What is your prediction?
Unlike league positions, medals and trophies are something football players and supporters will never get bored of, so despite the big effort put in on Sunday, I doubt that there will be any danger of a lack of motivation when the players step out to the sound of the Himno tonight. We are potentially only 6 games away from recreating the scenes below! C’mon Sevilla, let’s go for the FIFTH Copa!