Sevilla’s Euro aims falter on the road

Sevilla’s hopes of salvaging a European spot this season have been hit by some absolutely woeful displays away from home, where the Andalusians have taken just seven points out of a possible 42. With seventh place the benchmark for Europa League qualification, Unai Emery’s men are down in 10th spot, five points adrift of cross-city neighbours and current incumbents Real Betis, and it is a situation that is increasingly worrying fans that are notoriously some of the most demanding in Spain.

Los Nervionenses have failed to win on the road since a 2-0 victory over Deportivo La Coruna on September 24 last year, with the only other points coming in draws at Granada, Rayo Vallecano, Espanyol and Getafe. Now, six months later, Sevilla will be required to amass maximum points from at least three of their remaining five away games if they are to realise the public’s expectations. It may prove to be a tall order for a team that has only taken fewer away points than the division’s bottom two clubs, Celta Vigo and Depor.

In contrast, the 31 points obtained at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan is bettered only by the top three teams – Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid – and the 10 wins, one draw and three defeats is close to the impressive home form shown in Juande Ramos’ successful time in charge between 2005 and 2007.

It is an enigma that both Emery and his predecessor Michel, who was relieved of his duties in January after yet another away defeat, this time to Valencia, have spent months trying to rectify. Yet both men failed to find a solution, with some supporters believing the answer perhaps lies in the fact that there is not enough know-how in the spinal column of the team – hence the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde performances witnessed so far.

For example, Argentine centre-back Federico Fazio is now a mainstay of Emery’s first XI, yet aged 26 he has played just over 100 League games for Sevilla in six years and was formerly an object of fans’ derision. Then there is central midfielder and Chilean international Gary Medel, a player whose commitment and desire cannot be questioned but who at times lets his enthusiasm get the better of him as he oversteps the mark, both on and off the pitch. Medel’s partners are Swiss-born Croatian, Ivan Rakitic, who has just turned 25, and 20-year-old Frenchman Geoffrey Kondogbia, while Alvaro Negredo has been forced to go it alone up front several times, with Jose Antonio Reyes putting in some hit-and-miss performances since his return from injury.

With President Jose Maria del Nido insisting this week that the club needs to reduce its operating budget by €20m over the next three years, the potential loss of revenue that failure to qualify for European competition for a second successive season could bring may present its own difficulties. Already this season, both Emir Spahic and Diego Lopez have left the club for Anzhi Makhachkala and Real Madrid respectively, the former on loan, moves Del Nido described as ‘an exercise in responsibility between income and expenditure’. Even so, the Sevilla President said this week he believes Emery has already started to turn things around.

“Unai has given the team the strength it needed and little by little we are getting results. Previously, the team lacked the capacity, know-how and sufficient solidity to win away from home, and that is not to speak ill of the person who was here before, who was a born worker,” he told a conference organised by the ABEA Foundation, the company responsible for the club’s website.