Champions League 2015/16 profiles: Sevilla
The Bathtubs are back! After successive Europa League triumphs, Unai Emery gets to lead Sevilla into the Champions League, and they’re in Manchester City’s pool, Group D, alongside Juventus and Borussia Monchengladbach.
Coral make the Seville side 9/2 third-favourites to finish top of that foursome, and 11/8 to reach the knockout phase with a side that looks to be going in a new direction with heavy recruitment in attacking areas this past summer.
Domestic league: La Liga
How they qualified: The Bathtubs are the first beneficiaries of new rules which give Europa League winners a route into the elite continental competition for the following season. This means there are five Spanish sides in this term’s Champions League.
Best Champions League era performance: Although more known for their Europa exploits and in the old UEFA Cup, Sevilla have twice reached the last 16 of this competition in 2007/08 and 2009/10.
Coach: Former Valencia manager Emery has rebuilt his reputation and then some in Seville after a disastrous spell at Spartak Moscow. The next section also highlights the price of his success as Bathtubs boss.
Ins and outs: Heading high-profile departures from the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan were prolific Colombia hitman Carlos Bacca to AC Milan and converted right back Aleix Vidal, who was bought by Barcelona despite their transfer ban.
Long-serving defender Fernando Navarro was also a notable exit with former QPR midfielder Stephane Mbia taken to Turkish team Trabzonspor. Arriving in Seville are a fantastic cadre of forwards, who show the club mean business at home and abroad.
Basque striker Fernando Llorente came on in last season’s Champions League final, and he will be competing with Borussia Dortmund loanee Ciro Immobile to lead the line. Flair comes in the form of Ukraine attacker Yevhen Konoplyanka and Denmark winger Michael Krohn-Dehli.
The Bathtubs have also recruited in defence with Adil Rami used as sweetener to the Bacca deal, coming the other way from Milan. He will miss their opening group games with a groin problem, though. Immobile’s fellow Italian Marco Andreolli has also joined on loan from Inter.
Familiar faces: New signings Steven N’Zonzi from Stoke City and Gael Kakuta (Chelsea) join ex-Arsenal man Jose Antonio Reyes as recognisable names from the Premier League’s recent and more distant past.
Key player: Wideman Vitolo has established himself in the Spain squad after an excellent campaign last term, scoring nine goals and getting a dozen assists in all competitions. Setting up two during Sevilla’s 5-4 UEFA Super Cup thriller that ultimately saw them come up short against Barca shows how vital he is to the Andalusian outfit’s play.
Ones to watch: Konoplyanka is testing himself in a top league now and, if strikes like his stunning goal against England in World Cup qualifying three years ago are replicated, then the Bathtubs will have plenty to brag about.
Poland anchorman Grzegorz Krychowiak, meanwhile, does the dirty work in front of the back four, and is well worth keeping an eye on with Arsenal consistently linked with his signature.
Emerging talent: Goalkeeper Sergio Rico really stepped up when previous first-choice custodian Beto got injured last term, and has been called up to Spain’s senior squad off the back of his acrobatic exploits in nets.
CL group and fixtures: Group D
v Borussia Monchengladbach (home), September 15th
v Juventus (away), September 30th
v Man City (away), October 21st
v Man City (home), November 3rd
v Borussia Monchengladbach (away), November 25th
v Juventus (home), December 8th