Editor’s Note: We are thrilled to be joined by Chris Lail of Monchi’s Men. Chris is a Sevilla fan who runs a great account keeping you updated on all things related to the club. Be sure to follow Chris on Twitter and also to give a follow to @monchismen. They also have a forum which can be found here and a podcast that they share on Twitter.
What makes Sevilla special as a club?
I think it’s a bit different for each fan; however, for the majority of us, it is the over arching theme of the team…. Nunca se rinde, never give up/never surrender. As Sevilla fans we have seen that play out many times with our recent successes and you fall in love with that mentality.
Julen Lopetegui seems to have revitalized his career at Sevilla, what has been the key to his success?
Lopetegui had as good of a debut campaign as anyone at Sevilla could have hoped for. Winning the Europa league and finishing top four checked all the boxes for a successful season. He did that with a very good defensive first mentality.
Monchi worked hard in the 2019 offseason to provide solid, young defenders (Diego Carlos and Jules Koundé) along with a veteran ball winner Fernando to make up what we are calling our Holy Trinity. With those guys and decent goal keeping, Sevilla had their second-best defensive performance ever in the league last season.
This season has shown to be a bit more of a challenge. We are still solid in defense, but are having trouble getting the ball in the net. With that said, Lopetegui has us in the knockouts of Champions League and fighting again for fourth in the league. Maybe there is something to this defense first football.
This will be the first time Sevilla has faced Unai Emery since (I think) 2012. How is he remembered at your club and what do you think it will feel like to face him?
You are correct, the last time Sevilla faced Emery was February of 2012, which also was the last time Sevilla won in Mestalla until they pulled off that feat last Tuesday.
Emery is still loved by the fans. The guy won three Europa league championships in a row for this team. How could we feel any other way? He did leave for what at the time looked to be greener pastures, but struggles with PSG and Arsenal found him back in La Liga quicker than I think he would have liked.
I feel that it will be harder for him than it will be for Sevilla. Walking out of a visiting locker room after having so much success in the home one has to be strange. The only players around now in the Sevilla locker room that he coached during his time are Aleix Vidal, Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Escudero (injured).
Y’all have sort of been La Liga’s escape artists this season, with almost all your wins coming late and a lot of them being 1-0. Is this a sign of a team that’s resilient or one that has just been fortunate so far this year?
We have won 5 of our 7 wins by the score line of 1-nil. I think some of that is due to the solid defensive structure and the quality of our back line. We are a better offensive team than the score line shows. We continue to dominate possession in most matches and average the fourth most shots in La Liga; however, those shots just don’t find the back of the net very often, which finds us with the tenth most goals scored. By dominating possession, I think Sevilla wears teams down, which gives them the break they need to find the late goal.
Editor’s Note: Calculated from percentage of passes attempted, Sevilla have had 63.2% of the ball to Villarreal’s 57.6%.
How do the fans feel about having Ivan Rakitic back?
I think the fans are happy to have him back. He isn’t the same player that left us after the 2013 season; however, he still has moments of brilliance and has scored some good goals for us this season.
I think many fans thought he would slot into the roll that Banega (who left for Saudi Arabia in the offseason) occupied, but he just isn’t that same type of player. With that said, I believe many fans feel he hasn’t been good enough this season and are expecting more. Lopetegui seems to trust him and he gets plenty of minutes. Hopefully he continues to gel and grows as the season continues.
Lucas Ocampos had a bit of a breakout year last season but is still probably underappreciated outside of Seville. What makes him such a good player?
Ocampos was our most important player last season. He led the team in goals and gave the opposing defensive sides fits with this size and ability to dribble and find his shot. This season he has taken a step backwards and hasn’t found as much success.
He continues to draw many defenders when he gets near the box and has struggled getting past them. At 6’2 (1.87 meters) he is a unique winger who plays physical, has a high work rate and is really good with both feet, but something this season seems to be missing.
His notoriety among the other leagues and especially internationally has continued to grow. He is a regular starter in Argentina’s attack and that may be one of the reasons we have seen his performance drop a bit this season. He has the most minutes from attacking players at Sevilla and I think tired legs are a bit of a factor in his recent performances.
What is one major tactical feature Villarreal fans should look out for when watching your team play?
I hope your fans love crosses. The majority of Sevilla’s attacks will come from the fullbacks. Both Jesús Navas (right back) and Marcos Acuña (left back), love to get forward and cross the ball into the box for our very tall team to try and head it home (more than likely head it over the bar). You will see good defensive structure with Koundé, Carlos and Fernando who will hopefully contain and frustrate Moreno.
Score prediction for Tuesday?
I’m always terrible at this, but I think I have to go with 1-0 Sevilla. That’s what we do and who we are at this point. Gerard Moreno could put a damper on our plans. He’s such a great player.