After the Semi-Final first legs of both UEFA competitions, three of the four ties are finely balanced, yet in Seville on Thursday night a 2-0 victory for the some team against Valencia was much more decisive and is further indication that improving Sevilla are a force to be reckoned with in this competition after a very modest start to their season.
During the summer, Sevilla lost the services of both Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas to Manchester City for sizeable fees and gaps needed to be filled in the squad. Carlos Bacca and Kevin Gameiro arrived from Club Brugge and PSG respectively for modest fees while Stephane M’bia has also been secured on loan from Queens Park Rangers in England.
An unimpressive beginning to their La Liga campaign witnessed only one win from the first seven league games and after a 4-1 home defeat by Barcelona in mid-February, Sevilla were languishing in mid-table and seemingly destined for a mediocre campaign.
Yet manager Unai Emery, who was appointed in January 2013, has watched as his new arrivals finally settle into Spanish football with the result that Sevilla have won nine and lost only game since that heavy defeat by Barcelona. Real Madrid were beaten 2-1 during this sequence.
Sevilla are now settled in fifth position in the table with an upcoming match at fourth placed Athletic Bilbao which will have significant bearing on which of the two teams qualifies for the next Champions League campaign.
There has been the odd setback in recent weeks with an away loss at Celta Vigo and finally overcoming city neighbours Real Betis in the Europa League after a surprising 2-0 home leg loss, but in general Sevilla are a rapidly improving team as their impressive 4-1 home win against Porto in the previous round demonstrated.
Croatian Ivan Rakitic is enjoying his best season to date in Spanish football after his move from Germany several years previously and Carlos Bacca has been a consistent striker throughout the campaign with 14 league goals already amassed. However, it is the improved form of Frenchman Gameiro which been more noticeable in recent weeks.
He has netted nine times in La Liga and scored three Europa League goals since February to confirm the promise displayed when he averaged a goal every two games when playing for Lorient in France. A move to PSG was not so successful and when transferred to Sevilla last summer, injuries blighted his first few months at the club.
A pacy but diminutive striker, Gameiro is now justifying the 7 million euros paid for his services and is helping Sevilla to becoming a team worth taking seriously.
It has taken time this season, but Unai Emery’s squad could yet repeat their UEFA Cup wins of 2005-06 and 2006-07 without being really considered as serious contenders just two months previously.