The UEFA Champions League has reached the business end of the competition. It's knockout football. There is no margin for error, there can be no more slip-ups. Ahead of the round of 16, we take a closer look at how Sevilla made it through the group stage and assess their chances of marching into the quarter-finals.
THE JOURNEY SO FAR
After becoming the first team in history to win the UEFA Europa League for three consecutive seasons, Sevilla’s biggest task this season was making sure they didn’t make it four in a row. Big things were expected from little Jorge Sampaoli, the club’s new coach, and they didn’t disappoint, taking a point in Turin against Juventus before victories over Dinamo Zagreb and Lyon saw them make the knockout stage for the first time since 2009-10.
MOST EXCITING MOMENT
There were few moments as gripping for Sampaoli’s side as the two clashes with Italian giants Juventus. Sevilla kicked off their UCL campaign with an important point at the Juventus Stadium, with goalkeeper Sergio Rico the hero as he pulled off a remarkable save from Alex Sandro to ensure the game ended goalless. In the return fixture at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Sevilla dominated for 60 minutes and left the field to a standing ovation from a proud home crowd despite eventually going down 3-1 to the Old Lady.
While the Italian giants would no doubt prove their stiffest competition, the general belief was that besting experienced UCL campaigners Lyon would be the key to Sevilla’s qualification. Wissam Ben Yedder’s lone goal at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan earned a vital three points before a hard-fought draw in France ended the Andalusians' long wait for a chance to mix it with the big boys in the UCL knockout stage.
France international Samir Nasri raised a few eyebrows when he agreed to take on a leading role in Project Sampaoli, and the on-loan Manchester City midfielder has certainly lived up to his reputation since his arrival. He was Sevilla's standout performer in both vital matches against Lyon and scored the crucial goal that gave his side victory away to Dinamo Zagreb. That he missed both matches against Juventus has been offered up as a key reason Sevilla failed to grab a victory over the Italians.
CHANCES OF PROGRESSION
Sevilla dominated the reigning Premier League champions for much of the evening in the first leg last month and, after taking a deserved two-goal lead, Jamie Vardy’s second-half strike was a real hammer blow. Sampaoli instantly insisted a performance anywhere near his side’s in the first game would be enough to ensure they make the quarter-finals for the first time in 50 years and, despite suffering that away goal, they remain favourites to progress.