Lopetegui: “You must only focus on the path in front of you, nothing else. And what we have is a demanding and exciting match.”
All the hard work from the previous season has led to this moment. Although the group stage should never be a given, the Champions League knockout round is where Sevilla FC must look to make its mark. Awaiting them is a Dortmund team which hasn’t improved much since the draw was decided. Interim coach Edin Terzić, who took over from Lucien Favre in mid-December, got good results at the start of his tenure. But lately, his BVB side has slipped down to 6th in the Bundesliga, with only 1 win from their last 6 league matches. Will the Champions League help the players return to their best?
Fernando: “We are full of motivation to play in the biggest competition in the world.”
The way Julen Lopetegui has drilled this Sevilla team assures the players will know the tie is 180 minutes long. The Basque coach typically deploys a conservative game plan, which may become necessary in this 1st leg. We all know of Sevilla’s defensive capabilities, which has to stop a Dortmund team that has only failed to score once this season — on Matchday 2 of the Bundesliga at Augsburg on September 26th. This particular battle can be exemplified between two of the best young players in their respective positions, Jules Kounde & Erling Haaland. Could this be their first duel of many to come?
Projected XI (4-3-3): Bono; Aleix, Kounde, Diego Carlos, Escudero; Fernando, Jordán, Rakitić; Suso, En-Nesyri, Papu Gómez.
Lopetegui’s defence-first approach might seem appropriate for this first match. With an opposing team that isn’t shy in front of goal, a clean sheet may be the most important thing to carry over to Germany. With an array of attacking talent, Dortmund will shell out an onslaught to get many away goals as possible. But with Bono currently playing like he did last summer, Terzić’s men may be confronting their most challenging task yet. Will Sevilla make this 8 games without conceding?