Zenit – Sevilla Europa League Quarterfinal Leg 2 Match Comments

We begin our preview this mid-week with some arithmetic. Sevilla’s last two games in La Liga have been draws (vs Barcelona and at Granada), which as we all know are worth one point each, or 1+1 = 2. The draw with Barcelona was of course met with a considerable amount of fanfare, coming as it did from a 2–0 deficit and resulting in the continuance of Sevilla’s much-celebrated home undefeated streak. The Granada draw, on the other hand, while also the result of a comeback, was met with much consternation as it felt more like two points lost then one point won. A win at Granada would obviously have been worth three points, and post-match more than a few folks were wondering if we wouldn’t have been better off losing to Barcelona and winning the three points away at Granda.

Which leaves us to ponder this simple math: is 1+1 > 0+3? In other words, was the morale boost and positivity that resulted from the Barcelona comeback, with its attendant undefeated home streak continuation and sense of accomplishment and purpose heading into the game against Zenit, worth more than a loss combined with a win at Granada would have been? Can two ever be worth more than three?

In general I am of the mind that all points are the same–a win in the Bérnabeu, for example, is worth the same points as a win at home against Eibar–and I’ve made no secret about my belief that just winning the winnable games should be enough for European glory (the previously proposed Small Games Success Theorem). However, in this case I’m not so sure that 3 really is greater than 2. It seems like the Barcelona draw brought a lot of positive energy to the team, and may or may not have contributed to the comeback in the Europa league against Zenit. For example: how would you have felt about the odds of a remontada from 0–1 down vs. Zenit last week if Barca’s 0–2 early lead had become a 1–5 humiliation? Where’s the team’s mind at if they’re playing the first game after the home streak ended, and already down AGAIN at home? At any rate it’s easy to imagine that basking in its own sense of invincibility (and downright indefatigability) over the days preceding the Zenit match came in handy when Sevilla needed to dig deep for the win late in first leg of that quarterfinal.

Which of course brings us to the second leg of the quarterfinal, wherein Sevilla will attempt to defend a 2–1 lead in St. Petersburg. The math in this match will be much more straightforward: Zenit will know that a 1–0 victory will be enough to advance, so Sevilla will be anxious both to score a goal and especially to avoid conceding an early goal. Zenit will be able to call upon a few players who’d been missing last week, but will also be missing a few players who were present last week. I could pretend I know whether that’s a net loss or a wash or what, but honestly I don’t have the energy just now to even do the amount of research that would allow me to pretend that I follow the Russian league and know who’s good or bad on this one team who I think is winning the title but I’m not sure (nor am I sure, for that matter, what the Russian league is called without looking it up). I’m also not going to dig too much into tactics here, because pretty much everyone in the comments will have smarter things to say than I do. I will say this, though: there’s one obvious pattern emerging for Sevilla: teams that make the mistake of scoring, or let’s just say taking the lead, end up regretting it when Sevilla comes back. So maybe keep that in mind, Mr. Hulk.

Bottom line, though? I think Sevilla will score tomorrow. And I think at the final whistle, the aggregate number of goals Sevilla has scored will be > the aggregate number of goals Zenit has scored. So just think on that math, St. Petersburg. Oh yeah, and another thing: