2014, 2015, 2016. Before Real Madrid, it was Sevilla who completed a hat-trick of three consecutive European titles. Albeit the Europa League, it still takes a lot of determination, hard work to get to there.
After some forgettable adventures in the Champions League, Sevilla are back in the group stages of the continental league they use to dominate. Pablo Machin’s side are looking to revive their silverware winning feeling as they’re back where they belong.
FOX Sports Asia analyses their performance in their opening Europa League game this season and also sheds light on some potential rivals who can push them to the limits in their quest of winning the silverware.
If you’re into football and trolls related to it, you must have seen it. A flow chart of some sort showing Sevilla trying their best to being in the top 4, succeeding, but only to crash out of the tournament in the group stages. The flow chart then shows Sevilla going onto the Europa League and winning it; thus ensuring their participating in next season’s Champions League group stages. This has been the case for the team from Seville for some time now. Last season, Pablo Machin’s men finished outside the top four, meaning no Champions League football this season. Jesus Navas and Co. were one of the prime candidates for winning the Europa League when the draw was made. Their performance against Standard Liege is the reason why.
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) September 20, 2018
From the very first minute, Sevilla’s pressing football took everyone’s notice. Standard Liege could hardly contain them. Sevilla’s ‘Trademark’ intricate passing was there as well. And it wasn’t long before it paid dividend. Within eight minutes of the match, Ever Banega gave Sevilla a much deserved lead. Even though they were pegged back a little by the Belgian side’s equaliser. But ultimately, they were of no match to them. Franco Vazquez restored parity. And in the second half, it was the story of Wissam Ben Yedder.
The French striker, who was the main man last season as Sevilla knocked out Manchester United, showed everyone that he’s brought the scoring touch this season as well. Two from him and another from Banega from the spot capped off a five star performance. And it wasn’t just the goals. Overall, Sevilla looked hungry. They looked dangerous in attack and compact in defence. A midfield that links up the defence and attack in one knot is what prime efficiency looks like. Pablo Machin’s side already have their eyes fixed on yet another Europa League triumph ever since their ‘hat-trick’.
Slick Sevilla move for their third against Leige today. Kjaer with the forward pass, Vazquez with the flick, Banega picks up the wide runner and a clash finish from Ben Yedder. pic.twitter.com/k5FuzK0inI
— Mark Travis (@Mark_Travis) September 20, 2018
To win the entire thing however, requires lot of mental and physical strength. It also requires them to perform at their level best on crunch days. If the first matchday is anything to go by, then Sevilla will have some stiff competition from some of the heavyweights of European football, starting off with Arsenal.
The Gunners in their first season post Arsene Wenger are playing in the Europa League as a result of finishing outside the top four last season. Just like Sevilla, Unai Emery’s men also impressed heavily in their first match. Against Ukrainian side Vorskla, Arsenal once led 4-0.
Aubameyang makes it 3-0 Arsenal. Delightful finish pic.twitter.com/bwR76Br3nv
— Terje (@TerjeGIFs) September 20, 2018
A slight drop in intensity and concentration saw them concede twice. But overall, Arsenal looked absolutely majestic. That fearsome attack finally came to life as Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice and Mesut Ozil also getting on the scoresheet. Apart from those last 10 minutes, Arsenal were almost perfect. And with a coach who was the orchestrator of Sevilla’s hat-trick Europa Leagues, Arsenal look to be one of the favourites this season.
Four wins in a row 🙌
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) September 20, 2018
Arsenal’s city rivals Chelsea are also playing in the Europa League this season as a result of finishing outside the Champions League spots. Despite not being at their best, an Eden Hazard-less Chelsea won against Greek opposition PAOK by the slightest of margins. Maurizio Sarri’s team selection showed his main goal of just grinding out a result. And he did get that. But ‘Sarri Ball’ was there.
That’s the way to start the group! 💪
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) September 20, 2018
Chelsea’s passing and pressing is something that goes exactly hand in hand with Sarri. The midfield absolutely bossed the game, with Kante and Jorginho playing some top notch football. The defence also looked rock solid. The Italian has totally moulded his philosophy into the Blues. And with a squad like Chelsea’s, they’ll be more and more organised as the tournament progresses, just like what they’ve been doing in the Premier League. And when the knockout rounds commence, Sarri might revert back to their strongest lineup. Which spells bad news for the other teams.
Apart from the English teams, Bayer Leverkusen, Lazio and Besiktas also impressed. The Germans brilliantly turned over a 2-0 deficit to win 3-2 against Ludogorets Razgrad, thanks to a brace from Kai Havertz. The backline looked a little exposed, somewhat slow in anticipating danger, but their attack was inspirational. They stepped up when the team needed them the most. With almost a ‘B’ team, Leverkusen showed their caliber. And they’ll only get better when the likes of Leon Bailey and Karim Bellarabi are restored to the main eleven.
Bayer Leverkusen battled back to beat Bulgarians Ludogorets 🙌 pic.twitter.com/UrEI84voui
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) September 20, 2018
Italian outfit Lazio have been mightily impressive ever since last season. They won their match against Cypriot outfit Apollon Limassol 2-1, thanks to goals from two of their main men, Luis Alberto and Ciro Immobile. Simone Inzaghi’s men, despite whatever the scoreboard may show, were on top of the Cypriot side for most of the match. It’s still early days, but Lazio’s intent and firepower make them one of the candidates to go all the way.
LUIZ ALBERTO SCORES FOR LAZIO! THAT BACKHEEL ASSIST FROM CAICEDO 🔥pic.twitter.com/EQqAHUEytY
— ItalianFootballTV (@IFTVofficial) September 20, 2018
Lastly, Turkish side Besiktas have always been one of those ‘Hipster’ teams in the Europa League. One of those teams whom people love to watch. A lot of people’s ‘second team’ if you may. Against Norwegian side Sarpsborg, they came out 3-1 winners, thanks to a brace from defender Enzo Roco.
— Turkish Football (@Turkish_Futbol1) September 20, 2018
Besiktas, like the other big names of Europe, played a somewhat weakened side with one eye on their league match this weekend. But they still were impressive. Former Liverpool striker Ryan Babel opened the scoring before Roco sealed the deal. Without the talismanic figure of Ricardo Quaresma, Besiktas still looked comfortable, showing their squad depth. Besiktas’ performance last night showed why they are direct rivals to the Arsenals and Chelseas for winning the 2018-19 UEFA Europa League.