Sevilla finished third last season, eight points behind second-placed Real Madrid and 17 behind champions Barcelona. This was the second time in the last four seasons that they have finished third, and this year they would certainly like to improve. The Andalucians have yet to make that leap that would help them break into the top two in Spain but it is generally acknowledged that if any club in Spain can break the Real Madrid-Barcelona duopoly, then it is Sevilla.
Sevilla do not have the monetary prowess of Real Madrid or the attraction of Barcelona but they do have a perfect sense of whom to buy and whom to sell. Sevilla have made three major additions to their squad from last season and all of the reinforcements were necessities.
Sergio Sanchez has arrived from Espanyol for €4 million and he is going to strengthen the right-back position. The 23-year-old Spanish defender is rated as one of the most promising in Spain and he will help cover the hole left by the departure of Daniel Alves last summer. Last season Adriano did perform decently at right-back but he is left-footed and is not a natural right-back. As for Abdoulay Konko, who was originally signed to replace Alves, the Frenchman suffered with injuries.
Sevilla have also imported Didier Zokora from Tottenham Hotspur for around €10 million. The Ivorian defensive midfielder is supposed to provide the necessary shield to the back-four, and his experience of playing in the more physical Premier League gives him an additional edge in his role as a defensive midfielder in La Liga.
The 'buy of the summer' for Sevilla, though, has been a certain Alvaro Negredo, whom perhaps even the supporters did not expect to arrive at Andalucia. The 24-year-old centre-forward had been sensational for modest Almeria for the past two seasons and the reported €15 million paid to Real Madrid is money well spent. However, Negredo, who scored 19 times in the league in 2008-09, will have to fight with fellow strikers Luis Fabiano - whom president Jose Maria del Nido somehow kept out of the clutches of Italian giants Milan - and Frederic Kanoute for regular first string football.
Sevilla have also made a few other changes. Goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis has been shipped to Napoli in Italy, midfielder Enzo Maresca has left for Greek giants Olympiakos and defender Aquivaldo Mosquera has been offloaded to Mexican side Club America. Jose Angel Crespo, David Prieto, Armenteros and Trecarichi all have been sent out on loans while right-winger Tom de Mul has been recalled to the squad from his loan spell at Belgian side KRC Genk. Duda, Lolo, and Alejandro Alfaro have all returned after respective loan spells.
What Will Negredo Add To Sevilla?
Sevilla might pride themselves on playing fluid attacking and pacy football but last season it was their defence, and not their attack, that was their main strength. Andres Palop was once again reliable between the sticks and the back-four protected him well. Sevilla conceded only 39 goals last season, just four more than Barcelona, and have made only one change from that backline. Sergio Sanchez slots in at right-back, Julien Escude and Sebastien Squillaci remain the central defensive pairing and Fernando Navarro maintains his position at left-back.
Coach Manolo Jimenez would have a number of options in midfield. While Didier Zokora is expected to play the defensive midfielder's role, Duscher and Renato can displace him as the season progresses. Romaric should be the playmaker-in-chief and he would be ably supported by Jesus Navas and Diego Capel on either wing. Jimenez would have the luxury of rotating his players as Diego Perotti looks to make 2009-10 his breakthrough season and can replace Capel at left-wing while fellow Argentine Lautaro Acosta is a talented attack-minded player.
At times Jimenez has not been too eager to play two strikers up-front but in the Frederic Kanoute-Luis Fabiano partnership, Sevilla do have one of the most lethal and prolific front-twos in Spain and probably in Europe. Kanoute has been excellent for the Rojiblancos for the past three seasons, and while Fabiano was slightly under par in 2008-09, the Brazilian international had a successful Confederations Cup campaign in the summer and after fending off a move to Milan should be at the top of his game once again. Negredo should challenge the front two and could displace one of them as the season wears on.
Frederic Kanoute has been in sensational form almost always for Sevilla. The Malian international was the saviour for the Andalucians in many a game last season and his 61 league goals in total for the club make him a modern day legend. Sevilla's success and progress in the Spanish Primera Division as well as the Champions League this season would depend much on Kanoute's goals and form.
Can Kanoute Fire Sevilla To The Title?
One To Watch
Diego Perotti has made only a handful of first-team appearances so far but the 21-year-old, who functions essentially as a left-winger but can feature as an attacking midfielder too, should make 2009-10 his breakthrough year. Although he has to compete with another talented left winger, Diego Capel, for a regular place in the starting line-up, this season Perotti could show the world his talent and calibre. With excellent dribbling qualities and marvelous technique, Perotti is going to be an exciting prospect for Sevilla in 2009-10.
Could Perotti Be The Revelation Of The Season?
Manolo Jimenez took charge of Sevilla in October 2007 at a time when the club had lost Antonio Puerta to death, Juande Ramos to Tottenham Hotspur and four matches in a row. The former Sevilla defender became a managerial Messiah as he led them to a fifth-place finish in the league, missing out on Champions League football only on goal difference. Last season Jimenez led the club to third in the league but the supporters thought that they should have done better.
There were considerable doubts about Jimenez's future but del Nido kept faith in him and the 45-year-old will remain the coach this season too. Jimenez's football has not been too endearing to the Pizjuan faithful, who complain of his reluctance to play with two strikers and think that Sevilla do not get as many points as they deserve or play as good football as they should with the players that they have. This season Jimenez has a tough task on his hands as he not only has to win matches by playing sensational football, he has also got to see that Sevilla make good progress in the Champions League.
Can Manolo Deliver The Goods This Time?
Sevilla are certainly top four material and everyone expects them to win an automatic Champions League place. The league title might appear just out of reach for the Andalucians thanks to the superiority in terms of depth and quality of the Barcelona and Real Madrid squads; but like last season Manolo Jimenez will be hoping to steer his side to third place. Club president del Nido and the fans, though, would cheer on for a title triumph - and Sevilla do have a decent chance of winning the league for the first since 1946, but under the current circumstances a top four finish should be their priority.
Subhankar Mondal, Goal.com