Sevilla v Fiorentina
Thursday May 07, 20:05
Live on ITV 4
Sevilla are proudly holding onto the Europa League trophy they won so impressively last season, and for that they deserve huge credit. Despite losing arch schemer Ivan Rakitic to Barcelona and bustling left-back Alberto Moreno to Liverpool, adaptable and astute coach Unai Emery has still found a way to win. Not only are Los Rojiblancos just three games away from retaining the trophy and booking a place in the Champions League, but they could also be invited to European football’s top table by virtue of a top-four finish in La Liga.
Sevilla were underwhelming in the group stage, but they have come alive in the knockout rounds. Borussia Monchengladbach and Villarreal were both beaten home and away, and putting four goals past Zenit St Petersburg over two legs was an impressive achievement. Sevilla were 1-0 down at home to Zenit and fought back to win 2-1, and they were 2-1 down and heading for extra-time in Russia, only for Kevin Gameiro to finish the tie in the 85th minute.
This fighting spirit, this iron will, is what’s been on show time and time again this season. When Sevilla were 2-0 down at home to Barcelona, they roared back to draw 2-2. When they were 3-1 down at home to Real Madrid at the weekend, they pulled a goal back, and were inches away from levelling at 3-3. When the crowd gets involved at the Sanchez Pizjuan, bedecked in white and red and howling their support, Sevilla get a noticeable lift.
That reverse against Real was Sevilla’s first home defeat of the season, and in all competitions they have won 21 of their 27 home matches. They haven’t failed to win a home game in the Europa League since a 2-0 loss to bitter rivals Betis in March 2014, and they have won their last eight home games in the competition. You can add the names of Porto, Valencia and Feyenoord to their list of scalps.
Sevilla have no injury or suspension concerns, and Vitolo is back after missing the Real game at the weekend. Carlos Bacca is likely to get the nod in attack, with Kevin Gameiro always such a danger as an impact sub.
Vincenzo Montella’s Fiorentina have consistently upset the odds to get to this stage, and they are once again the underdogs ahead of this tie. La Viola have overcome Tottenham, Roma and Dynamo Kiev to get to this stage, and I suspect they will give Sevilla their toughest test of the competition so far.
Fiorentina are quite a tough team to get a handle on, because for all their collective ability, a horror show never seems to be too far away. Recent home defeats to lowly Hellas Verona and Cagliari have torpedoed their chances of a top-three finish in Serie A, and after losing four of their last five league games, it appears Montella has placed all of his eggs in the Europa League basket.
Montella insists he won’t compromise his attacking style, and won’t go to Seville with the idea of merely restricting the hosts. That approach has yielded positive results, as Fiorentina have scored at least once in all 12 of their Europa League matches this season.
Fiorentina certainly have the potential to score at least one away goal. Khouma Babacar is injured, but Mario Gomez will lead an attacking unit including the guile of Joaquin and the dizzying speed of Mohamed Salah.
Sevilla’s home record is very strong, hence their price of [1.83] to win. What’s putting me off recommending the home win is that Fiorentina’s away displays in the Europa League have been more convincing than their performances at the Artemio Franchi, and Sevilla only just scraped past Zenit in the first leg of the quarter-final.
Instead, I’m going to back Sevilla for the long haul, and back them To Qualify at [1.75]. If Emery’s boys win the home leg, then we’re looking good. If they don’t, I would still back them to turn the tie around in Italy.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
Sevilla’s last five Europa League games have featured three goals or more, and an overs bet has paid out in six of their last eight games in all competitions. Fiorentina haven’t failed to score in any of their Europa League games this term, and ten of their last 15 outings in all competitions have contained at least three goals.
I know the trends show that first legs are usually tight affairs in this situation, but I think an overs bet is worth a dart at [2.0].
Back Over 2.5 Goals at [2.0]
Back Sevilla to qualify at [1.75]
2014/15 Europa League P/L (1pt per bet)
Points Staked: 87
Points Returned: 86.8
P/L: -0.2 points