Spanish Football The keys for Sevilla to eliminate Manchester United in the Europa League semi-final
Manchester United are once again Sevilla’s opponents in a knockout round of a European competition, and whilst the English side are incredibly improved since the last encounter, there are a number of keys to progression for the Andalusian club.
Sevilla have won the Europa League five times, whilst United have won it just once, however a place in the final is up for grabs in Germany when they meet on Sunday, although the Spanish side will find it far tougher than they did in 2018.
Julen Lopetegui’s team arrive to the semi-final without having lost in 19 competitive matches, with seven of the last eight resulting in victories.
United have been similarly impressive, losing just one match since January 23rd, although draws against West Ham United and Southampton, as well as a 3-1 FA Cup defeat to Chelsea have shown them not to be infallible.
Monchi took a gamble in hiring the Spanish coach, but it is working out well for all involved.
Lopetegui has been able to convince his players and they believe in everything he proposes now, and his tactical nous could cause problems for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who does seem to only have one, albeit hugely effective, way of playing, and that is throwing players forward.
A smart Sevilla game-plan could negate that.
The Lucas Ocampos factor
After scoring the winning goal in the previous round against Wolves, Ocampos is in fine form. 2019/20 has been the best season of his career as he has scored 17 goals and registered five assists in 42 matches across all competitions.
His diligent work ethic could provide a problem for Manchester United, although he is going up against arguably the best 1v1 defender in Europe in Aaron Wan-Bissaka.
Both teams go into Sunday’s clash with excellent defensive records, Sevilla conceding just 34 goals in 38 games in LaLiga Santander this term, which was the third best defensive record, whilst United 36 which was also the third best in the Premier League.
In terms of individual talent in defence, Sevilla has an awful lot at their disposal with Jesus Navas, Jules Kounde, Diego Carlos and Sergio Reguilon forming a wonderfully impactful defensive unit this term.
Carlos and Kounde have been so impressive that they’ve been linked with moves away this summer, although they will need to be at their best to contain the effervescent movement of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and Bruno Fernandes.
The role of Yassine Bounou
If Sevilla’s defence are working well then it’s partly because of the confidence their goalkeeper gives them.
Having stepped in for the injured Vaclik, Bounou has taken to the position like a duck to water, having not conceded a goal for 512 minutes.
That record will be put to the test on Sunday, but his penalty save against Wolves should give him confidence against the side which earned the most penalties in the Premier League in 2019/20.
Their last European meeting
It may seem somewhat redundant to bring up the Champions League tie between the two clubs in 2017/18, given the fact both teams have better squads of players now than they did then, and they also both have better performing and better suited coaches.
With that said, the embarrassing humiliation United suffered at the hands of Los Rojiblancos will be playing on the minds of some of the players involved, especially as they failed to find the net against a defensively woeful Sevilla over the course of 180 minutes.
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