Sevilla boss Unai Emery has described Saturday's visit of Athletic Bilbao in La Liga as “a small final” as his side risk falling further behind in the race for Europe.
The Andalucians are already 10 points off the pace for a Champions League spot and could be about to fall five behind Los Leones, who currently occupy the final Europa League berth, leaving the Coach to express the importance of a victory.
“We face the final game of the first round with the maximum demand, and we hope to reach 29 points,” he said at a Press conference.
“It would give us another impetus in qualifying [for Europe] and comes against opponents who are in great form.
“Our opponents will demand a lot of duels and physicality, and we've set the bar high.
“I'm not thinking beyond [Athletic]. It's a small final against a team who have evolved in line with us, and the points won't come back.
“[Daniel Carrico] has been working with the squad for three weeks after a long injury and has a chance to play [in light of Adil Rami's ban].
“[On Fernando Llorente facing his old team], in my experience, you must be motivated every day, but it's sure to be a game which especially motivates Fernando.
“Our progress this season will show what we're capable of.
“I am happy with the squad and know there's significant room for improvement with these players.
“I assume we are lacking important things for maximum performance.
“The main evaluations have to be done at the end of the season.
“I'm certain there is a large margin for growth with these players but also that they must give more.
“It's a major challenge for the team and I, as a Coach.
“It's not easy to find players who will improve us. For me, the best reinforcement is seeing Carrico already playing with the team, [Gael] Kakuta entering the team in good form, [Benoit] Tremoulinas and [Sergio] Escudero both finding consistency down the left, [Steven] N'Zonzi finding his best form, [Sebastian] Cristoforo finding continuity…
“[On a lack of goals from forwards], it's true that we're struggling to be clinical, but we're creating chances and I have confidence in [our forwards] because they're capable of finishing chances off.
“It's clear that we need [an away win], and we have to reverse [our form] because if we don't then it will be difficult to meet our objectives.”