This season has been a rollercoaster. Stretches of despair where we contemplated sacking our coach and rebuilding from scratch after setting records for away game futility. But then we also had stretches of historic greatness, reeling off 75 consecutive wins and overcoming our away game curse. Repeatedly thrashing our cross-town enemies in the most heart-wrenching of ways possible, and then knocking out rivals Valencia in the most dramatic way possible (see M’bia, Stephane).
Technically, the Europa final is not our final match of the season. I imagine some guys will show up on the weekend wearing Sevilla jerseys and kick a ball around on a pitch against Elche for 90 or so minutes. But that game continues essentially no meaning. Everything comes down to this final encounter.
The players have said it themselves: “you may never get another chance to play in a European final”. As Sevilla fans we’ve been a bit spoiled in the last decade as this will be our third. But we should retain perspective and appreciation for the immense task that this team has already accomplished just to arrive in Turin and have the opportunity to play in this game.
Does that mean we should be satisfied with the season before even setting foot on the field? Of course not. We headed to Turin with the intention of winning, not just attending Benfica’s corronation. But if, for some cruel twist of fate or conspiracy led by FIFA (undoubtedly with Real Madrid and Barcelona somehow culpable from their hideouts in the shadows), I will still applaud and be proud of this team. A team that was in total reset mode at the beginning of the season. Who has shown incredible heart and perseverence, and who has again risen our beloved Sevilla to the forefront of conversations about both Spain and Europe’s strongest clubs.
This game will be hard. Benfica are very very good. Most pundits suggest that Benfica are the slight favorites. That is fine by me. It helps that they are missing three of their best players due to suspension. But that seems to be canceled by our own untimely injury problems with Moreno, Vitolo, and Gameiro who are all questionable for the match. I retain hope that this was all a brilliant ploy by Emery to confuse Benfica’s tactics and that they will all feature in the match, but that remains to be seen.
Apparently their goalie, Oblak, is in the form of his life. We will need to find some way to break through. Rakitic will have to be huge (as he so often has been). Mbia will have to be the boss of the midfield. Fazio will have to continue his steady dominance anchoring our backline while Beto controls the box. Marin and Reyes will need to find ways to open up the Benfica defense. Coke and Moreno or Navarro will have to hold strong on their wings defending but find ways to contribute going forward. And Bacca will need to be an assassin up front. We can do it. We’ve done it before and I believe in this team. But it won’t be easy.
Let’s enjoy this ladies and gentlemen. Who knows when the next time will be that we have this opportunity.
Here is the squad (and eldesmarque’s guess):
Sevilla FC: Beto; Coke, Pareja, Fazio, Alberto Moreno; Carriço, M’Bia; Reyes, Rakitic, Vitolo; Carlos Bacca.
Suplentes: Javi Varas; Fernando Navarro, Diogo, Iborra, Trochowski, Marin, Gameiro.