How Sevilla Unraveled In The Champions League
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Sevilla had an opportunity to advance to the quarter-finals of Champions League for the first time ever on Tuesday. Unfortunately, they became a victim of themselves, as wasted chances had them bow out of the knock-out stage via an inferior Leicester squad.
Nobody expected this after an intense first leg at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan. After all, one team is third in La Liga, while another is fighting for relegation at the Premier League. That was pretty clear on the pitch three weeks ago, as the Andalusians dominated the whole game.
However, even with that overwhelming dominance, there were few signs shown that’d eventually come to haunt Sampaoli’s team. Despite having up to 22 shots on goal, with seven of them on target, Sevilla only managed to score twice – missing some golden opportunities like a penalty and two that hit the woodwork.
Maybe the home side did know about the danger that awaited them at King Power Stadium after all, and they pushed to kill off Leicester with a third goal. However, that goal never arrived. Instead, Jamie Vardy punished them with a cleverly worked counter attack goal to leave everything open for the second leg.
A lot can happen in just space of three weeks. Sevilla’s form dramatically dropped in that period, failing to win their last two league matches against recently promoted clubs. Meanwhile, Leicester sacked their title-winning manager Claudio Ranieri and gave the assistant Craig Shakespeare a chance to save their season. The rejuvenated, reunited side quickly bounced back with two impressive wins over Liverpool and Hull. Three-week time gradually reduced the difference in performance between the two clubs.
With all these factors surrounding the matchup, Sampaoli didn’t do his side any favors either. He planned to sit back and soak up the pressure, instead of pressing and being intensive from the get go. With the direct playing style used by Leicester, it was only a matter of time they score in front of their motivated home crowd. Playing three at the back also caused issues, as Adil Rami, Nico Pareja, and Gabriel Mercado all struggled with the pace of the Foxes’ pacey attack.
Even though Sampaoli got tactically outclassed by Shakespeare, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for Sevilla. They still had many chances to end the tie, particularly with Steven N’Zonzi’s penalty, Sergio Escudero’s shot that hit the woodwork, and Samir Nasri’s close range opportunity. But just like in the first leg, they failed to convert their chances and in football, you can’t win if you don’t score goals.
Overall, this was an awful, gutless performance from a Sevilla side who has been doing so well this season. They were being known for being intense, yet that was the biggest missing piece for them on Tuesday night. At this point, the only way to turn this into positive is to focus on La Liga and aim for a third place finish on the table. With Atletico Madrid catching rhythm lately, even that might not be possible.
Sampaoli’s tactics and approach so far are also questionable. There are only two months left before the season is over, yet the Argentine still can’t figure out his best eleven. His treatment of some players is way too harsh, as well. Hiroshi Kiyotake never got a chance, Franco Vasquez is now in the doghouse, and Stevan Jovetic was surprisingly put on the bench for their biggest game. With Barcelona rumors lurking, nobody is sure where the manager’s commitments are, and it remains very possible that he might head for an exit come summer.
Sevilla thought they had it all figured out this time last month, but that might not be so now. It won’t be surprising if they go through another overhaul for the next season. And with the performances like the one in King Power Stadium, that looks like a necessity.