Tuesday, 12 December 2017

United to face Sevilla in Champions League last 16 tie

United will face Sevilla in Europe after the two sides were paired together in Monday's draw for the Champions League last 16. 
The two most recent winners of Europe's second-tier tournament will meet for the first time in a competitive fixture, with Eduardo Berizzo's side having come back from 3-0 down to snatch a point against Liverpool in Group E on Matchday Five. 

Currently fifth in La Liga, the Andalusian side have been excellent in continental competition over recent years,  winning a record five UEFA Cup/ Europa League titles, including three in a row - in 2013/14, 2014/15 and 2015/16. Former City men Nolito and Jesus Navas are among their current squad. Steven N'Zonzi, once of Blackburn and then Stoke, also plies his trade for Sevilla and will be another familiar face to Premier League fans. It's been one of their lesser lights who has starred for Sevilistas this season, however, with French forward Wissam Ben Yedder their leading marksman with 13 goals. 

The club traded one Argentinian manager for another when Berizzo took charge in May, replacing compatriot Jorge Sampaoli who left Sevilla to become boss of his country's national team. 

Real Madrid and Barca are of course Spain's dominant duopoly but Sevilla - even though they've only got one Spanish title to their name - have been one of the country's strongest sides over the past few years, with five Copa del Rey triumphs alongside their European successes. 

The Reds topped Group A with five wins from six to set up the tie with the team from southern Spain, and we visit their Ramon Sanchez Pijuan home on Wednesday 21 February. United will be at home for the second game, which will be played at Old Trafford on Tuesday 13 March. 

There are no easy games in Europe, and Sevilla will pose a difficult challenge for Jose and the Reds. But considering we could have got one of Europe's biggest hitters - in the shape of twelve-time champions and holders Real Madrid or German giants Bayern Munich - in the draw, then we couldn't have asked for much better and it's a relatively kind tie. 
The winners of the tie will go into the hat for the quarter-finals, and - if we can get through - it's anyone's game and the Reds will fancy their chances. Even more so when two of PSG, Real Madrid, Chelsea and Barcelona will be absent from the last eight line-up. 

Jose has won this competition twice, once with FC Porto and once with Chelsea and he relishes the twists and turns that it brings. With City disappearing into the distance on the domestic front, it will be intriguing to see whether, similar to last year,  Europe takes precedence in his plans. 

Sevilla v United first leg 21.2.2018, Ramon Sanchez Pijuan
United v Sevilla second leg 13.3.2018, Old Trafford 


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