Both Sevilla and Manchester United will be playing Champions League football next season, but their meeting in the Europa League semi-final should be a hotly contested one as both sides look for a trophy to book end successful seasons.
Sevilla arrive here after a win against Wolves which was narrow, but completely deserves despite Raul Jimenez’s penalty miss and the encroachment that came with it. After that early scare they took control of the game and never let go, with another Ever Banega masterclass at the centre of proceedings; In a game when no Wolves player had more than 44 touches of the ball, Banega had 144 including a masterful assist for Lucas Ocampos’s late winner.
He was in control, and so were Sevilla, who had 75% of the ball, won the shot count 18-6, the corner count 14-0 and the shots on target count 5-2 in what was an impressive display. Banega and Ocampos weren’t the only players who left a big impression; Jesus Navas, still going strong at 34, was excellent down the right hand side and will give Brandon Williams many problems, whilst Banega was well supported by Fernando at the base of the midfield and Joan Jordan in a box-to-box role; Both will need to step up again against United, but Julen Lopetegui can be confident of his side holding up well in midfield – and having an attacking threat in Suso, Youssef En-Nesyri and goalscorer Ocampos.
Sevilla v Man Utd
UEFA Europa League Semi-Final
20:00 BT Sport 1 / BT Sport Extra 1 / BT Sport Ultimate
HEAD TO HEAD RECORD
(Maximum 10 matches, since 2010)
MAR 2018 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE Manchester United 1-2 Sevilla
FEB 2018 CHAMPIONS LEAGUE Sevilla 0-0 Manchester United
Manchester United needed extra time to get past Copenhagen, but to belittle them solely for that would be unfair given how much they dominated the game. United won the shot count 26-9, and the shots on target count 14-0, forcing Copenhagen goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson to make 13 saves (the joint most in a Europa League game for 11 years). Whilst they were poor in the first half, they still had a penalty overturned and a goal ruled out by VAR, whilst in the second half Bruno Fernandes and Mason Greenwood each hit the post Marcus Rashford had a second goal disallowed.
Facing Sevilla will provide them with a different challenge – one that could end up suiting them with more chances on the break for Martial, Rashford and Greenwood – but also one that will make them work far harder defensively. Brandon Williams faces a big test with Jesus Navas and Suso down his side, whilst Banega’s presence will give Paul Pogba and Fred plenty to think about in midfield. Bruno Fernandes, the focus of so much that United have done well, will obviously have a huge impact and is going to need a good amount of covering defensively if Sevilla have the majority of the form.
The front three will also have a tough test if Jules Kounde and Diego Carlos keep up their immense form post restart, and all things told, this looks to be a tight game on paper.
Sevilla impressed more with their control against Wolves (adding to an impressive display against Roma in the Last 16) and are marginally favoured to sneak into the final. Manchester United are better than they showed against Copenhagen, but possibly might have been feeling the effects of a long season when struggling to make that breakthrough in the quarter-finals, and previously they had appeared a bit blunter at the end of the Premier League season.
They may enjoy having an opponent that will come forward more than Copenhagen did, but Sevilla’s control against Wolves was absolutely suffocating and they could be best placed to book their spot in yet another Europa League final.
PROFIT/LOSS SINCE JAN 1 2017: PROFIT 226.74 points
(Excluding Cheltenham 2021 antepost, Six Nations Outright, Six Nations Specials, Cricket 1st Test ENG v PAK)