Sevilla starting to shine

Sevilla went into the season with a first Champions League group-stage appearance in six years to look forward to, having qualified for the competition proper by winning a second successive Europa League title last year. By virtue of doing so, they became the first winner of Europe's secondary club tournament to qualify for the elite continental competition following the rule change in 2014.

Unai Emery had been a success since taking over at Sevilla, having guided the club to two European triumphs, which made them the most successful club in UEFA Cup/Europa League history, with four titles, and had gotten them back into the top five in the League the last two years after they had finished in mid-table in the two seasons prior. Emery brought Sevilla back to the heights they reached in the mid-2000s again and, having decided to stay put instead of going to Milan in the summer, it looked like the good times were set to continue at Sanchez Pizjuan.

It proved to be a sluggish, almost nightmarish start to the new season, however. Instead of building on their fifth-place finishes in the last two campaigns, Sevilla started slowly and were winless after the first five rounds. They looked like a polar opposite in comparison to their battling, thrilling European Super Cup performance, which ended narrowly in defeat to Barcelona in August.

Sevilla found themselves in mid-table and out of the Champions League with four successive defeats in late November and it looked like they were destined to miss out on Europe altogether for next season. However, starting with a win over Valencia, which saw their Coach Nuno Santo resign, Los Rojiblancos’ fortunes have changed completely ever since.

Having won just five of their first 18 games and kept three clean sheets in all competitions, they have now won 14 and kept as many clean sheets in the last 18. That includes a run of seven consecutive Copa del Rey shutouts, topped off by Thursday’s brilliant 4-0 win over Celta Vigo which almost certainly books their place in the final against Barcelona. They also ensured European football after winter by beating Juventus in their final group game and finishing ahead of Borussia Monchengladbach in the process.

They're also back on track in the League with just one defeat in their last 10 and sit in fifth, eight points off Villarreal, who they're finding it tough to gain ground on given the Submarines' excellent season up until now. But Emery has well and truly turned things around at Sevilla, proving why his reputation has only gotten bigger since his days at Valencia.

The trainer has his side playing confident football again, defending very well and on the cusp of a third Cup final in his three full seasons in charge. And with the Europa League knockout stages soon to commence, few would bet against Sevilla making it to a third straight final in this form.