Julen Lopetegui believes at least six sides could challenge Sevilla for a top four place

Sevilla have performed well under the leadership of Julen Lopetegui. The Basque coach took charge at the Sanchez-Pizjuan in the summer of 2019, twelve months on from the nadir of his career when he had to leave his position as coach of La Roja on the eve of the 2018 World Cup because he agreed to take over Real Madrid at the end of the tournament.

His time at the Santiago Bernabeu was a disaster, admittedly not helped by the many external factors influencing the club at that point in time. Monchi has given him a second life, however, and he’s not disappointed. Lopetegui led Sevilla to a fourth-placed finish in La Liga in his first season and helped them win the Europa League, before consolidating fourth-place last season. At the time or writing they’re once again fourth, just three points off Madrid and the top of the league table.

Julen Lopetegui

It’s competitive in that part of the table, however, and Sevilla haven’t been entirely convincing this season. Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid join Los Blancos ahead of them – albeit with one game played more – while Osasuna are level on points with them and Rayo Vallecano and Athletic Bilbao are just one behind. One behind them lie Valencia, Barcelona and Real Betis.

“The feeling is that we’re starting to compete, starting to feel the complexity of the competition,” Lopetegui said in an interview with Marca. In some moments we’ve been able to deliver good results and performances, but in others there are areas where we have to improve, like all teams at this point in the season.

Julen Lopetegui

“I think [the race for the top four] is very open,” he continued. “There are teams that have consolidated a very good squad and have improved a lot, as is the case with Villarreal and Real Sociedad. I think Betis has built a very interesting squad, while Valencia have retained their most important players and have shown the ability to be able to compete.

“Athletic, in Marcelino’s second year, has nailed down many concepts. Celta [Vigo], our next opponent [are in the mix]. In other words, there are many teams that are going to be there and surely a team that you don’t expect is going to appear as well, because there’s real equality [in La Liga]. There are teams who don’t have European commitments. It won’t be easy.”

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