Sevilla v Fenerbahce: Champions League Preview
Sevilla make their debut in the UEFA Champions League knockout round for the first time in their history this evening and it is going to take a lot more than the layer of snow that covers the Fenerbahce pitch to cool the atmosphere in what promises to be a thrilling encounter.
Sevilla’s Turkish opposition are also through to this stage of the competition for the first time after having seen off some impressive sides at home already. Inter Milan, PSV Eindhoven and CSKA Moscow have all succumbed to the combination of an intimidating atmosphere and a steely determination to progress beyond the group stages for the first time in five attempts.
Sevilla seem finally to have found their form after starting the domestic season slowly and are beginning to resemble the side that has dominated the UEFA cup over the last two consecutive seasons. Zico, the Fenerbahce coach, knows all about the Spanish club’s European pedigree over two-legged ties but does not fear the winners of group H.
The Brazilian said “I’m not afraid of Sevilla," adding, "If I was afraid of them, I would stay at home."
"They might not be famous like Manchester United [FC] or AC Milan but they deserve the utmost respect from us. We will respect them but will also fight until the end. It's obvious that they are a high-quality team. So are we."
It seems that Zico intends on fielding same IX that won 4-2 at Rizespor in the Süper Lig on Friday, in spite of forward Semih Şentürk’s recovery from a knee injury. True to his Brazilian roots, Zico has promised a positive approach from his side and said “We should be the team doing the attacking. Our fans expect it!"
Fenerbahce will need to be careful. Manuel Jiménez has not lost as coach of Sevilla in the Champions League and their recent Spanish league form has seen them progress steadily up the La Liga table to sixth place. Sevilla’s particular brand of fast, attacking football is perfectly suited to hitting an over enthusiastic home side where it hurts.
Jimenez said "We will try to hold up the ball and try to exploit any Fenerbahçe errors," adding that, "Sevilla likes to play attacking football and you can't easily change the style the players are used to. But we may be a little bit more cautious because we are playing away from home. In two-legged games, it is important to return home without conceding."
Manuel Jimenez has kept his team selection close to his chest in the build up to the match, but he will certainly have to do without injured defender Javi Navarro and striker Ernesto Chevantón.