As the Bianconeri get set to face Sevilla for only the second time in their history, Juventus.com identifies 10 things worth knowing about Unai Emery’s men ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League meeting in Andalusia.
Sevilla had never won a European trophy until their Europa League final victory over Middlesbrough in 2006. The Andalusians would go on to retain the cup the following season by seeing off Spanish rivals Espanyol on penalties and, incredibly, they managed to secure further back-to-back triumphs in the competition in 2014, beating Benfica, and 2015, when they defeated Dnipro to become the team to have most success in Europe’s secondary cup competition since UEFA founded it in 1971.
The Blanquirrojos’ current run of four straight defeats in Europe is the worst sequence in their history and it all began with the 2-0 loss at Juventus Stadium on 30 September. Meanwhile, Unai Emery’s men created another unwanted precedent this season by failing to qualify from the Champions League group stages for the very first time, having reached the quarter-finals in 1958 and round of 16 in 2008 and 2010 respectively. Their worst ever showing in the competition, however, came in August 2010 when they lost to Braga in a two-legged play-off.
After a start of the season to forget, Emery’s men have made the Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan a real fortress in La Liga by taking maximum points from their last five home games, including major scalps against both Barcelona and Real Madrid. Indeed, of their seven wins in all competitions this term, six have come in Seville, with their only away triumph recorded last Wednesday against Spanish second division outfit Union Deportiva Logrones in the Copa del Rey.
Italian clubs hardly have the best of records at the Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan after Fiorentina fell 3-0 in last season’s Europa League semi-final (that would become a crushing 5-0 defeat on aggregate) and Parma were held to a goalless stalemate in the competition’s last 16 back in March 2005.
The Emilians, however, would go on to beat the Blanquirrojos 1-0 in the return leg in Italy and an identical scenario of home win and away draw for Juventus would be sufficient in seeing Massimiliano Allegri’s men finish as Group D winners.
Sevilla’s season so far has been somewhat hampered by an inability to string together wins. Only once have they managed to record back-to-back victories, when they followed up a home win over Rayo Vallecano with a staggering success at the Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan against Barcelona. For those of you wondering if there have been any draws, yes there have, but only two in their last 17 matches in all competitions, including Saturday’s 1-1 with Deportivo La Coruna.
If there’s a goal scored by Sevilla, the chances are that Yevhen Konoplyanka has had a hand in it. The Ukrainian winger has provided five assists in La Liga this term, while scoring two in Spain’s top flight and the Champions League respectively. The former Dnipro man has a knack of making his goals count as well with seven of his key contributions coming in Blanquirrojos victories.
The Blanquirrojos’ form has suffered in many ways from a defensive record which reads just two clean sheets in their opening 14 La Liga matches and four in all competitions. Indeed, their 19 goals conceded domestically is the second-worst from sides in the top half of the table. The importance of staying solid should never be underestimated and, when they have managed to stop the opposition from scoring, they’ve often gone on to win, as against Valencia, Borussia Monchengladbach and UD Logrones. In the only exception to this rule, they still gained a point in an opening day stalemate away to Malaga.
After masterminding back-to-back Europa League triumphs with the Blanquirrojos, Emery is considered one of the continent’s most promising managers. On Tuesday night, the 44-year-old will be looking for his first win against Italian opposition in Europe’s premier club competition, having lost on his maiden attempt at Juventus Stadium in September.
Looking on the positive side, however, maximum points for the Andalusians would represent his third out of four games against sides from the Peninsula, after he guided Valencia to home and away victories over Genoa in the 2009/10 Europa League group stage.
If Sevilla have struggled for points in this year’s Champions League, it’s certainly not for a lack of possession, having seen an average 54 per cent of the ball in their five Group D matches. In fact, their defeat at Juventus Stadium was the only occasion in which they had a minority stake at 46 per cent. The Andalusians have also completed 2,170 passes, 276 more than the Bianconeri, and they’ve also edged their Italian counterparts in terms of finding the target (seven times to six). Needless to say, their main problem has been the 11 goals leaked in stark contrast to the two conceded by Allegri’s men this term.
After switching the black and white for the white and red of Sevilla over the summer, Fernando Llorente is currently his side’s second-highest scorer in La Liga this term with three goals at a rate of 148 minutes per strike, while also chipping in with three assists across all competitions. On the flipside, however, the Blanquirrojos have rarely ever taken maximum points whenever Llorente has made a key contribution, his winner against Real Madrid proving a rare exception to the rule, and the forward has only played 78 minutes in this year’s Champions League, with Konoplyanka and Kevin Gameiro often preferred up front.
For Ciro Immobile, opportunities to lead the line have been even shorter in supply. The striker, who began his career in Juventus’ youth ranks and made five appearances for the senior team six years ago, has been afforded a full 90 minutes of football on just one occasion this term, scoring the third in last week’s Copa del Rey win against UD Logrones. Incidentally, his only other strike this season came when Llorente too found the net against Real Madrid.