After one of the busiest transfer seasons in recent memory, Sevilla ends its pre-season and reports for work a little earlier than most teams for their Europa qualifier match. These qualifiers of course carry a fair share of painful memories for Sevilla fans: in 2010 the team failed to qualify for the Champions League when they lost to SC Braga in the final qualifying round, and the following year they failed to advance to the Europa League when they lost to Hannover 96 in the qualifying round. Today’s qualifier marks the closest we’ve been to European competition since. Obviously the best answer would be to just qualify directly for these tournaments, but as you’ll likely remember from last year, this team isn’t exactly interested in the most direct route to anywhere.
But “this team” is a radically different one from the team that finished 9th in La Liga and sneaked into Europa thanks to the shoddy financials of several Spanish teams. There are the obvious and notable departures of Navas, Negredo, and Palop as well as absences of other frequent contributors Botía, Manu del Moral, and Stevanovic. But there’s also a pretty impressive collection of young new talent arriving to the first team this summer: Rabello, Jairo, Bacca, Gameiro, Vitolo, Marin, Rusescu, (and, you know, a huge pile of cash thanks to the previously mentioned departures). The list of promising arrivals is definitely longer than the list of painful departures, and for that reason it seems like Sevilla fans in general and in particular at this site are feeling optimistic about the direction the team’s headed. Hopefully that means we see a different result this evening.
Of course, not all of those exciting new names will be participating tonight: most notably, Kevin Gameiro picked up a slight muscle strain last week and won’t suit up. In addition, Medel will begin serving out his absurd ban from last year, Cicinho is of course still injured, and Kondogbia hasn’t yet returned from his vacation after winning the World Cup with France this summer. Those absences mean we’re almost certain to see some of those new faces in the starting XI today–should be interesting and more than a little nerve-wracking.
[A quick note about how well we’ll be “seeing” all those new faces: since the club couldn’t reach an agreement with GolTV, the game won’t be televised in Spain or on a big international network. So I guess when I say that we’ll see some new faces, what I mean is that we’ll squint at amorphous flesh-colored pixel blobs and try to guess which name goes with all the blobs making kick-like motions at the small ball-like blob.]
Meanwhile, on the other side of the field, our opponent is Mladost Podgorica, who finished 6th place in the 12-team Montenegrin First League and thus earned a spot in Europa qualification thanks to two teams above them being disqualified from European competition because they failed to obtain an UEFA license. That’s right: we’re facing a team that finished in the middle of the table but still managed to qualify for European competition thanks to non-sporting disqualifications of teams that did better than them. Obviously I’d make fun of them and this crappy second-rate league if the exact same words didn’t apply to us. Anyway, Mladost squeaked by the first round by beating Videoton on away goals, then overcoming Senika in the second round. Obviously they’re huge underdogs today against Sevilla, but Sevilla have stumbled at this stage before; here’s hoping that tomorrow we’ll be talking about the amazing fulfilled promise of Rabello and Vitolo, and not cursing Monchi for another season of poor signings.
The game’s just five hours away–obviously be sure to swing by for comments, commentary, and hopefully more than a few links to quality streams. The season’s about to begin, you guys. Let’s do this: