UEFA EUROPA LEAGUE — ROUND OF 16
SEVILLA FC vs. AS ROMA
In a match that can be dubbed the Monchi derbi, Sevilla takes on an in-form Roma side intent on taking the alternative route towards Champions League qualification.
As the last of the major domestic leagues came to an end last weekend, the European competitions are finally allowed to resume. The remainder of the Europa League will take place in various venues in Germany, with the exception of the round of 16 ties previously started.
After starting the post-lockdown season with 3 consecutive defeats, the Giallorossi finished their Serie A campaign with 8 undefeated matches (7W, 1D). Although missing a few important players in Smalling & Veretout, head coach Paulo Fonseca remains confident about his squad: “There is no need to motivate the team, as they already know this is important. […] I always want the same thing and that is to win.”
Probable Roma XI (3-4-2-1): López; Mancini, Ibáñez, Kolarov; Peres, Diawara, Cristante, Zappacosta; Zaniolo, Mkhitaryan; Dzeko.
Gudelj is the only omission as he’s still in quarantine after testing positive for Covid-19 last week. Therefore, Fernando will most likely deputize as the #6. However, Lopetegui has mentioned there may be a doubt in him taking part: “Fernando finished the season with injury, but has improved. We’ll wait until [game day] to make a final decision.”
Projected XI (4-3-3): Bono; Navas, Kounde, Diego Carlos, Reguilón; Fernando, Jordán, Banega; Ocampos, De Jong, Munir.
It will be interesting to see what state Sevilla turns up in after a disruptive break in their preparation due to Gudelj’s positive test result. Lopetegui has relied on a stable defence to make his team a difficult opponent, having kept 5 clean sheets in the last 6 games.
Despite already qualifying for next season’s Champions League, this tournament gives Julen a chance to redeem himself in knockout competition. The Copa del Rey upset suffered at the hands of Segunda side Mirandés last January triggered a run of a bad form, which nearly led to an early exit to Cluj in the round of 32. There is no doubt that the players are motivated to go for more and finish this campaign with silverware. Does Lopetegui have the right game plan to send Sevilla on a path for their 6th Europa League title?