This is the first time since the 2013-14 season that both Seville clubs are in Europe and they actually met that season in the Europa League with Sevilla progressing on penalties despite a shock 2-0 home defeat in the 1st Leg against a Betis side that was then on course for relegation from La Liga. Sevilla, as is generally their way, went on to win the Europa League that season adding to the misery for Betis, who slipped into the Segunda Division not long after that shootout defeat. Five years on and the outlook is much brighter in the green and white half of Seville and Betis fans are hoping to eclipse their neighbours in Europe this season, having already beaten them in La Liga this term and having finished above them last season.
The Europa League’s Spiritual Home?
— Soccer Box (@soccerboxcom) May 16, 2018
It’s fair to say that the Europa League is not universally loved. For the big teams in England and perhaps even now Italy, it is sometimes treated as at best a possible route into the Champions League and at worst a mere inconvenience. While it’s true the path to the Final is long and potentially damaging to league form, you will find few in the city of Seville that has a bad word to say about the competition.
Sevilla have won Europe’s secondary club tournament an incredible five times, twice more than any other side has managed. That’s even more remarkable when you consider their first success came as recently as 2006. Their four triumphs since then have helped the club forge a real identity and have shown that if you embrace the Europa League and take it seriously, the rewards can be great. Sevilla were realistic enough to acknowledge that their chances of competing with Barcelona and Real Madrid for domestic honours were slim and it’s a bit of a wonder why more of Europe’s so-called lesser clubs haven’t mirrored the approach in this competition.
Real Betis may not admit it, but they look to be following their bitter city rival’s lead this term in almost prioritising the Europa League over La Liga when it comes to team selection. They took 7,000 fans to the San Siro for a famous win over Milan and have also truly embraced the competition as an opportunity rather than a nuisance.
The city of Seville was also the setting for one of the best ever UEFA Cup/Europa League Finals when Porto saw off Celtic 3-2 in 2003, a victory which helped launch the coaching career of a certain Jose Mourinho. The Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan is also bidding to host the 2021 Europa League Final and few would argue that it wouldn’t be a fitting host given the immense contribution Sevilla FC has made to the competition over the past decade or so.
Sevilla dreaming of number 6
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) May 18, 2016
Judging by their unbelievable record, it would be foolish to write Sevilla off when it comes to lifting the Europa League trophy again this term. They’ve won 11 of their last 12 matches in the competition and haven’t been defeated in a Europa League knockout tie since a play-off clash with Hannover way back in 2011. They’ve won the competition each time they’ve entered it since and have already scored a ridiculous 32 goals in the Europa League this term having started out in the qualifying rounds.
Given all that they look very long at 10/1 to end up lifting the trophy again and they are almost certainly the biggest threat to the two London clubs. Sevilla’s latest victory came on Thursday night in Turkey against Akhisarspor with the 3-2 win moving them onto 9 points. They still have work to do to secure qualification but it would be a big surprise if they don’t progress from this position.
This is a Sevilla side that has already hammered European champions Real Madrid 3-0 this season and their attacking brand of football is proving too hot for many teams to live with. Crucially Pablo Machin has a large squad at his disposal and it has been very impressive how they’ve managed to combine a strong start in La Liga with progress in Europe and they don’t seem to have lost their knack for finding the right balance between the two competitions.
Betis impressing in tough group
— footballisme (@footballisme) November 8, 2018
Betis fans will be hoping to avenge their derby defeat to Sevilla in the 2013-14 Europa League. They have a team that is capable of going pretty far too with Quique Setien having revitalised this club since he took over in 2017. His side’s possession based approach appears well suited to European football and Betis currently top a tough group including AC Milan and Greek giants Olympiakos.
They’ve already visited both of those clubs, with a famous 2-1 win in Milan the highlight of their season so far. Giovani Lo Celso scored a screamer that night and the PSG loanee was on target again as the sides drew 1-1 at the Benito Villamarin. Betis enjoyed 65% of the possession in that game, largely controlling proceedings against their illustrious opponents. Los Verdiblancos can secure qualification on match-day 5 if they beat Olympiakos at home and would still have a match against Luxembourg minnows F91 Dudelange to salvage things should they not get the desired result.
Their relative inexperience in continental competition makes them more of a darkhorse tip to go all the way but they certainly look capable of a good run in the Europa League. Like Sevilla they have a pretty big squad at their disposal and their home is also a hostile place when full. In terms of ball retention, they are as strong as anyone in Europe and they have no reason to fear anyone currently in the competition.
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