Los Nervionenses face a tough encounter against los Leones...
There were great expectations for Sevilla this season, but already los Nervionenses have fallen short of their goal of reaching the Champions League proper. Now the Andalucian club must focus on getting into position to play in next season’s competition, which means finishing in Spain’s top four. Gregorio Manzano’s side must keep a decent start to the season going against Athletic Bilbao this weekend.
At present, Sevilla lie seventh in the table, which is a little below where they’d ideally like to be. Given the early season turbulence that followed the Champions League play-off defeat to Braga, namely the sacking of Antonio Alvarez, it’s little surprise they’ve perhaps failed to live up to expectations, and now los Rojiblancos must build again under their new coach.
Manzano, who lead Mallorca to a terrifically successful campaign last season by their modest standards, has had something of a mixed start at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. After defeating Borussia Dortmund narrowly in the Europa League, Sevilla impressively beat Atletico Madrid before slumping to defeat against Sporting de Gijon.
The weekend’s blip was quickly put behind them as they shifted up to a 1-0 victory against Karpaty on Thursday, keeping their hopes of progression in the Europa League burning bright. Frederic Kanoute scored the only goal of the game, and though it was an underwhelming performance Manzano would take that from his side every week if it meant three points were won in the process.
Straight Down The Middle
Lying eighth in the table, it’s been a decent start to the season for an Athletic Bilbao team without any serious pretensions of reaching Europe. The Basque club have had something of a mixed bag in the early weeks of the season, but in general Joaquin Caparros’ side have performed to a good standard, picking up three wins to balance out defeats against Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia.
After successive losses against Barca and los Che, the Bilbao outfit got back to winning ways last weekend with a 2-0 success over lowly Zaragoza. San Mames celebrated the opening goal from Iraola after just 11 minutes, and when Fernando Llorente added a second midway through the first half the fixture was effectively over as a contest. Los Manos did plunder a late consolation, but it was no more than that.
“Zaragoza were determined, but we played direct football and created many chances. Unfortunately, we were unable to take that performance into the second half,” a pleased Caparros told the press after the game. “I am very happy with the three points, and our first half performance was magnificent.”
It’s regularly been a problem replicating such form on the road for los Leones, who tend to perform to their optimum when backed by their fiercely partisan support at San Mames. If they can find their top level at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, however, they have the potential to wreak havoc.
There are a host of issues for Sevilla, the most pressing of which is an injury to Jesus Navas, who is expected to be absent this week and next due to an ankle injury. Luca Cigarini didn’t play in midweek because of a back issue, while Arouna Kone, Federico Fazio, Ivica Dragutinovic and Sergio Sanchez remain on the long-term casualty list.
Fernando Amorebieta and Aitor Ocio are not expected to shake problems in time to compete for a place in the rearguard. Jon Aurtenetxe is on Under-19 duty for Spain, so the back four is expected to be unchanged.
Ibai Gomez was injured just minutes into his debut and faces as sustained period on the sidelines due to a serious knee problem. He’s likely to miss three months of action.