Every time Sevilla has played a decent game this season, there’s been the temptation to say “ok, finally the team is getting it together! HERE WE GO!!!!”, and every time there’s been a lingering doubt about whether this is a new direction for the team or just a fleeting moment of brilliance. But here’s the thing: the manita vs. Getafe was a fantastic result, obviously. It was preceded by a disappointing loss away to Manchester City, sure, but that was a) a difficult away Champions League match, b) an actually decent showing by the team, and c) a pretty harsh result for Sevilla. Our heroes have hardly become the paragon of consistency, but they haven’t lost in La Liga in four games, and haven’t had a truly dismal showing in Spain in over a month (maybe overlooking that 1–1 at Eibar just slightly). So I’m very tempted to say the directionless, listless Sevilla (the team that can’t complete simple uncontested horizontal passes in the middle third of the pitch) is now a thing of the past. Not that I expect a string of flawless results to flow from that, necessarily, but the tide seems to be turning at the Nervión. On the other hand, though, an impotent display today and rather than an ongoing improvement the last month has been just another disappointing blip on the trendline.
Which is why today’s away match today at Villarreal, currently 5th after an impressive start to the season, feels so important. Villarreal have struggled recently, winless in their last three in La Liga, but they’re obviously a strong contender for European positions, and this game would feel hugely important (and challenging) even if Sevilla’s form had been consistent from the start of the season. Indeed, Emery’s calling this one a six pointer–maybe a bit early for that, but on the other hand it doesn’t seem terribly unlikely that we’re looking back at this match at the end of the season and either rueing the lost points or saluting our good fortune. El Desmarque’s preview begins “A game in the tenth week should never be decisive…” and then follow that with “but…”, which pretty well sums up my thoughts–there’s more at stake here than a typical week 10 tie. This game won’t decide anything on its own come May, but with its significance as a litmus test for the team’s as-yet-undetermined identity and probable future fortunes, it’s not just an early season matchup against a likely late-season rival on the table, either. It’s maybe not a six-pointer, exactly, but with Sevilla struggling to put their poor start firmly behind them, there’s more on the line than just the three points. It’s a “three points plus a lot of confidence and a dash of identity” kind of match.
And Sevilla must contest this game without Ever Banega, the single player whose presence has most positively impacted Sevilla’s play on the pitch. Whether or not the squad has progressed sufficiently to play intelligently without him is a question I’m not feeling confident enough to guess, but it’s probably the one question that will most determine how this game goes. Also potentially key: will Denis Suarez be extra motivated against his former team? Can Gameiro build on last week’s hat trick? Does Emery rest anyone for a do-or-die midweek Champions League match? Soldado: perennial underperformer or late-career renaissance? Should we vamos or not vamos?
Just kidding. Of course we should vamos.