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Wednesday, 02 April 2014 12:20

Sevilla - the expert lowdown

An in-depth look at FC Porto's Europa League opponents

beto-sevilla-20140402.jpgIt may have been a hugely disappointing Liga campaign for Porto, but the Dragons are still very much alive in the cup competitions, including the Europa League. Spanish football expert David Cartlidge brings us the lowdown of La Liga outfit Sevilla.

1. How have Sevilla looked this season, and what has their recent form been like?
Sevilla’s form up until fairly recently had been the usual – inconsistent. There were even murmurs of Unai Emery losing his job. However, a six -ame winning streak which included a fine home win over Real Madrid, lifted the gloom. The good run of form came to an end recently however as Sevilla finally lost this past weekend, going down 1-0 to Celta Vigo away.
2. How did they get here? Give us a quick guide to Sevilla’s path to this stage of the Europa League.
Sevilla are currently the longest runners in the competition this year, starting out back in the qualification stages of the tournament. They started out in the third qualification round to be exact, so it’s been a long season for them. In the previous round they beat Real Betis, their great rivals from the same city, on a penalty shoot-out. This after they lost the first leg. Currently this season in Europe they remain unbeaten away from home, winning five times and drawing twice. 
3. Ones to watch - Who are Sevilla’s star players?
Without a doubt the star player this season is Ivan Rakitic. The Croatian really does control the team from front to back, and his energetic midfield performances encompass the whole Sevilla system. Over the attacking transition he is most deadly, able to pinpoint a teammate out with a pass, run with the ball himself, or unload with a vicious shot. Other than that the striking duo of Carlos Bacca and Kevin Gameiro have done well in their debut seasons with the club, and have managed six goals between them in the Europa League this term. Fazio deserves a mention for his improvement at centre-back, really commanding the defence as opposed to giving off this clumsy vibe he used to. 
4. Strong points/weak points – what must Porto beware of and what can they exploit?
Strong; I think the presence of Rakitic is undoubtedly the strongest point of the side, he controls them in such an efficient manner and exploits any holes the opponents may have. He understands the team and the players around him very well. Weakness; I still believe Emery is a great weakness, he is an indecisive coach who is reluctant to make judgement calls at pivotal points in games. I think if Porto were to take the initiative and bully Sevilla in terms of possession and control Emery would find it difficult to react. Porto MUST take control. 
5. Formation and playing style – what system do they usually play? Would you describe Sevilla generically as an attacking or a defensive team?
They often switch between a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3 hybrid or 4-4-2. The latter has shown more often than not to limit the team in various areas, but Emery still persists on using it. I’d say under Emery they are a defensive team, preferring to analyse the opponents’ moves and taking it from there. Operating on the counter, giving the ball to Rakitic over the transition and using their interior forwards + actual attackers, is how they usually operate. 
6. What are the Spanish press saying about the tie? Who are considered favourites?
Porto without doubt are seen as favourites here but there is a growing belief Sevilla can go on to win this, especially given the absolute morale booster that was knocking out Real Betis following a first-leg defeat.  
7. Mood in the camp – judging by player/coach quotes regarding this game, do you think Sevilla come into the tie in a confident frame of mind?
I believe they are confident, cautious in several regards, but confident.  President Pepe Castro said the belief is high within the squad, and semi-finals is certainly achievable.  
8. What do you think the result of the match will be?
I’m going to say 3-2 to Sevilla over two legs.
Bonus question: What is you opinion regarding how the season has gone for Sevilla's Portuguese players, Beto (pictured above), Daniel Carriço and Diogo Figueiras?
They’ve all done very well in different measures. Beto’s firmly established himself as number one at the club and is rarely at fault, with his athletic ability proving very strong. Daniel Carriço’s played in mixed roles, operating as either a centre-back or defensive midfielder with varying success in both areas. He’s always good on the ball, and anticipates the game well. Diogo Figueiras has been a surprise package of sorts, coming out of nowhere to make a strong claim for the right back slot which has been up for grabs in recent years. He’s adeptly balanced the attacking and defensive duties of the role, with perhaps more stability in the latter due to his quickness of stubbing out danger.
Our thanks to David Cartlidge. For more from David and to keep track of all things La Liga be sure to follow him on twitter @davidjaca.

Comments (1)
Thanks David C
1 Wednesday, 02 April 2014 13:31
Great to see Beto stabilize his career after moving around so many times, being released by Porto and having some high profile frango’s along the way.

For Porto’s sake let’s hope Beto doesn’t pull another “Mario Felgueiras” and stand on his head all game making impossible saves. Seems Portuguese player’s abroad love playing Portuguese teams and beating them with goals, saves or even coaching!

Great to hear about Daniel Carrico and Diogo as well.

Another tough test for Porto, not really getting any help from the draw, haha.

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