The reformation is in full swing for Sevillistas as our new coach and leader, Gregorio Manzano has continually pushed the envelope for better performances week after week. Despite one embarrassing result in Gijón, us Sevillistas can be quite confident with our new manager. Since Manzano’s takeover at the helm, we have got our Europe League campaign back on track with wins in both Germany and Ukraine against Borussia Dortmund and Karpaty Lviv. Not to mention our convincing defeat of Atlético Madrid in the league and our recent pummeling of Real Union which shows that we have full intent for the defense of our Copa del Rey.
No doubt we are a team on the up and will continue heading there now that the players have a coach which they have full confidence and respect in. Having said that however, this weekend will provide the greatest test for Manzano since he has taken over. Barca have started their campaign a bit unconvincingly like ourselves but anyone who knows anything about football, knows this means nothing. Barca is pure class and anything but a picture perfect performance from us will even still, far from guarantee us three points in their hostile home of the Camp Nou.
Supporting Sevilla is fatal to the heart. We’re so unpredictable its crazy. Even during some of our worst times last season under Antonio Álvarez, we managed to go to the Camp Nou and pull off a magical 2-1 victory in the Copa del Rey – a victory which eventually sent us to the final in which we also came out victorious.
Unfortunately for us, we will be without our prolific prodigal son, otherwise known as Jesús Navas, as he is still recovering from his ankle injury that has kept him sidelined for the past month or so. Needless to say that when you play teams like Barcelona, you need your best starting XI, bar none! This won’t be the case as Navas will not travel with the squad, but Manzano hasn’t even had a chance to see Jesús play for his team, so I’m sure he has spent the last 4 weeks coping without him and will play a formation so we are not exposed up the right flank. Another massive blow will be in goal as Andrés Palop is sidelined with an injury he picked up last week against Karpaty. His experience and leadership will be missed but I have full confidence in Javi Varas who has struggled to see game time, not because he’s not a quality keeper, but because he has a legend in front of the pecking order. This will be a personal test for him to show the management why maybe it is time for him to take over the reins in goal.
A boost for us comes as it finally appears that Fabiano and Negredo, our two feared front men, have hit or are about to hit their top form. Both are coming off 2 goal performances in the League and Copa which will no doubt give them full confidence when we travel to Cataluña tomorrow. They will definitely be key in order to get a result away from home.
Our squad for the fixture is as follows:
Martin Cáceres, Romaric, Zokora, Perotti, Luis Fabiano, Renato, Kanoute, Javi Varas, Escudé, Alfaro, Diego Capel, Negredo, Cigarini, Dabo, Alexis, Konko, José Carlos, Luna y Dani Jimenez
A win in Barcelona would definitely show the progress we have made in the span of a month with new boss Manzano, but obviously at this point we have a massive hill to climb.
Losing a cup tie in the second leg when you hold a 3-1 lead going in, followed by an early and disappointing exit from the Champions League to a much smaller, lesser known team is extremely disheartening and hard to swallow. Unfortunately these were two circumstances that us in Sevilla had to endure already this season even though we are only officially one week into our La Liga campaign. The character of a team is really displayed in situations like this and in Sevilla we are strong.
A 1-4 victory against La Liga newcomers Levante may not seem like a result which would bring a derailing train like Sevilla back on track, but confidence is everything in football, ladies and gentlemen. Clearly with the talent amongst our squad there is no way we should have lost to Braga in the Champions League, especially by such a convincing margin at home. This past weekend we showed glimpses of the old Sevilla that many people have grown to love. Beautiful one touch football with dangerous flank play, it was a beautiful sight to see us get back to the basics and most importantly, get a much needed confidence boost.
Not only in my opinion was the victory against Levante in the opening match a sigh of relief, but the arrival of Martín Cácares to replace the departed Squillaci was also very comforting. Cácares never really got his time to shine in Barcelona but speaking with a Uruguayan friend of mine and as well as being familiar with him from his time at Villarreal, I am very confident that this is an ideal replacement. Staying on the subject of defence – it really seems that Del Nido and Monchi alike are focusing much on what we have prided ourselves on in the past few seasons and that mentality seems to be that the less goals we concede, the greater chance we have of winning matches. Of course this is true and along with Cácares, we have brought in experienced former-Valencia defender, Alexis and Dabo from St. Etienne in Ligue 1. Bolstering our backline was clearly the aim of the Sevilla management and along with Konko who netted two goals this past weekend, I believe we have more than succeeded in doing so.
Of course defense isn’t everything in football (unless you’re Italian of course) and more than anything, this season will truly tell us if we have a major problem. That problem of course is scoring goals and our (so far) €15m flop Álvaro Negredo will have to have one hell of a season for us to fulfill our hopes of Champions League football for next term. A huge weight that was lifted off our shoulders was when Luis Fabiano declared that he wanted to stay in Sevilla and put pen to paper to extend his contract a further 2 years. The saga that seemed to drag on all summer (as it seems to every year) is hopefully now put to rest as O Fabuloso stated what we all prayed for.
This weekend we travel back home to take on a team who once has “Super” as the prefix to their name. Indeed that is some feat if you can manage that. Anyone who knows La Liga, knows of course, that team is Deportivo la Coruña. The Galician side are coming off a boring 0-0 stalemate at home to Real Zaragoza and although they seemed to lack any creativity from what I saw, Depor are a team you always have to be aware of. They consistently pull off defeats against La Liga’s big boys of Madrid and Barcelona season after season so of course we cannot take them anything but seriously. One positive sign for us is that we are fortunately not traveling to their fortress of the Riazor where they are nearly impossible to beat. Having said that, we must somehow adopt the same mentality and make the Sánchez Pizjuán our fortress as it was for much of last season.
It will be interesting to see how all these new faces will fit into defence and how they will play alongside each other and although it is scary, I am very excited at the prospect of Alexis and Cácares holding the backline together and moreover, leading the team up field.
All we can do now is hope that we have got the right frame of mind and from there on we just stick to our game, and the results should follow.
Vamos mi Sevilla.
Tomorrow we face our first major test of the 2010-2011 campaign before the league has even begun! We face off against Barcelona in the Supercopa de España as last season’s Copa del Rey winners. As we all know, Barça were La Liga Champions and arguably the best team in Europe. Both us and Barça have won this competition once in the past 3 years and will be looking to do so for the second time in four seasons starting tomorrow.
While there is no question about who has the stronger squad, there is a little bit more significance to this game than just any other match between us. Nothing can be taken for granted in two-legged affairs like this Supercopa one as just this past season we eliminated the mighty Barça from the Copa del Rey which obviously we eventually went on to win. Also, of course of recent our once star left-back, Adriano Correia was transferred to the Catalàn club just like Dani Alves and Seydou Keita in previous years. No doubt there will be a little bit of friendly competition amongst Adriano and his new squad with his former teammates.
One thing that must be noted is the fact that we are just coming off a week where there were many international friendlies played and having the superstar squad that Barça does, it must be expected that fatigue may be a factor. This could obviously work in our favour as even Victor Valdés has to play due to an injury Pinto is struggling to recover from despite having just returned to training from his summer vacation. Having said all that though, unfortunately Álvarez will have to contemplate very carefully what lineup he plays as we have a very important Champions League game on Wednesday against Portuguese side Braga.
Despite coming off a somewhat of a disappointing loss to Espanyol in the Trofeo Carranza which was decided in penalties, this is a totally different match which a much greater reward. Three points are absolutely crucial if we have serious aspirations of adding another trophy to our cabinet. Going to the Camp Nou with nothing will be very difficult for us to achieve a result.
The 18 man squad selected by Álvarez is as follows; Palop, Javi Varas, Konko, Dabo, Fazio, Squillaci, Escude, Renato, Cigarini, Romaric, Zokora, Navas, Alfaro, Perotti, Diego Capel, Negredo, Kanoute and Luis Fabiano. With all the recent paper talk about LuFa going to Olympique Marseille its a huge personal concern about how well our star striker will play and if he does if it will be his last match in the colours of Sevilla. Players left out of the lineup due to injury or who are not fit, are Fernando Navarro, Lolo, Cala, Luna, José Carlos, Rodri, and the injured Guarente and Acosta.
With both teams set to be missing a few players tomorrow it is really anyone’s match. Barça will come out strong as usual but depending on the players that Guardiola has at his disposal, we may just have the upper hand. I am excited to see just how well our new signings Luca Cigarini and Mouhamadou Dabo perform against the strongest team in La Liga; hopefully they patch up the holes we had last season in both midfield and defense and show exactly why our transfer genius Monchi decided to bring them to Nervión.
¡¡Vamos mi Sevilla,
Our friendly match tomorrow against Atalanta starts a run of several important matches which will lead us right into our 2010-2011 Liga campaign. Building up to the Trofeo Carranza as well as our Supercopa matches, this will be the perfect opportunity to get our season off to a positive start.
We travel to Italy with a nearly complete squad with the exception of Jesús Navas who is still on his post World Cup holiday/recovery period and both Konko and Acosta who were declared unfit to travel with the squad following some minor injuries they’ve sustained.
Atalanta is an opponent of some significance as this is our new signing, Tiberio Guarente’s former club. This match will allow Álvarez to asses just how well new signing’s Guarente and Dabo fit into and play with the rest of the squad.
While the game is technically meaningless, it allows Álvarez to evaluate the squad in a competitive match against a decent opponent to prepare for the Supercopa de España against Liga Champions, Barcelona later next month.
The squad traveling is as follows: Palop, Javi Varas, Dabo, Fernando Navarro, Luna, Cala, Lolo, Squillaci, Escudé, Fazio, Renato, Romaric, Guarente, Zokora, Alfaro, Perotti, Capel, José Carlos, Negredo, Luis Fabiano, Kanoute and Rodri.
With the departure of Tom de Mul to Standard Liege on a season long loan (with an option to purchase at year-end), it begs the question if this move is part of a bigger picture that President Del Nido has in mind. It was reported earlier this week that we were interested in two Liege players – Steven Defour and Sebastien Pocognoli. Maybe some sort of agreement was struck between Del Nido and Standard to help strengthen their squad in order to allow us to buy one of their top players. Maybe it’s an over-thought, but our president always has something crafty up his sleeve and it wouldn’t surprise me if this time is any different.
It is needless to say that with upcoming crucial matches, summer holidays are over in Sevilla.
A quick bit of info for those who aren’t absolutely sick and tired hearing about the whole “Luis Fabiano transfer saga”.
LuFa today stated that he does not expect a transfer away from the Sánchez Pizjuán as he is happy in Nervión despite being linked with European heavyweights such as Tottenham, Inter and Manchester United. He stated that he could not speak while with his native Brasilian squad in South Africa but he is very content fulfilling his one year left in Sevilla.
While Fabiano may be technically, the strongest football in our squad, I was following the saga not minding either of the possible outcomes which either included LuFa staying in Sevilla or leaving for another European giant. Fabiano staying obviously provides us with great strength up front as he is still one of the best strikers in the world as displayed in his several World Cup performances. On the other hand, Luis is 29 years old, which by footballing standards, is old for a striker. The €20m+ which was being rumoured as the price for the Brasilian is in my opinion, an offer worth grabbing as we could definitely invest that into the squad in massive ways. Not that we have to worry about that anymore though, as Fabiano says he will be in Nervión next season.
Other musings around Europe have us linked to PSV midfielder Ibrahim Affelay, Everton star Mikel Arteta and most noticably, Napoli’s Luca Cigarini. There seemed to be some substance to the Cigarini gossip before it was reported that there was a breakdown in negotiations between Napoli and Sevilla in regards to the transfer. The Arteta rumour most likely is paper talk as I cannot see Everton accepting a £9m offer when there’s been talk of Manchester City offering £20m+.
Disregarding the chaos that is going on in the transfer market, we are progressing nicely in our pre-season leading up to the 2010-2011 campaign.
Three consecutive wins against weaker opposition Chiclana, Villa Rota and San Fernando has set us up nicely for our World Cup stars Jesús Navas, Squillaci and Zokora to return to the squad in time for the Trofeo Carranza, and more importantly in the buildup to the beginning of the season. The return of these three crucial players means Antonio Álvarez will have some decisions to make as he must trim the squad down to 25 players to submit to UEFA before the start of the season. The issue will be even worse as we are still in the hunt for a new midfielder which will create more congestion within the squad. The excess number of players in the squad could mean the likes of Chevantón, Duscher, Lolo, De Mul and David Prieto all finding new homes for next season as it is said Álvarez isn’t pleased with their progress so far this pre-season. They could all be transfered in attempts to raise funds for a more prolific midfielder which we so desperately need.
Who we will actually sign in the summer before the start of the season is still very much a mystery but with the massive loss of Adriano to Barcelona, we definitely need some strengthening if there’s any hopes of not only closing the gap between ourselves and the big two in La Liga but also for our well being in the Champions League. We cannot expect to make it very far if the squad looks the same as it does today, on September 1 when the transfer window closes.
I just want to take the opportunity to thank all of the readers of this blog for being so kind with your comments and page views over the past few months. I started blogging for Sevilla just a few months ago to help keep the blog up-to-date, always knowing the end of the summer would bring about a loss of time to write, but hoping I could continue on and co-blog with Anthony upon his return.
I have a lot going on in my life over the next few weeks, as my wife is due to give birth at anytime. Due to this, I am going to take a break from writing for a while—mostly because of the chaos of the baby and learning how to be a father for the first time. But enough about my life, I am writing this to announce that Anthony will return to being the Sevilla blogger after this post. His excellent writing is the reason most of you began following this blog, and I look forward very much to reading his new posts. Again, thank you all for your reading my posts and with your kind comments.
Finally, Sevilla unveiled their kits for the upcoming season on Monday. While there are many new features, most of the kits are what you would expect from a Sevilla kit, but the third kit…whoa!
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Spain won the World Cup! ! I guess we can finally put the tired cliché of perennial Spanish underachievement in major tournaments to rest for good—gracias a Dios! Huge congratulations to the Spanish National Team! This was a team that we saw grow over the course of the tournament, a team that gave us changes in tactics, teamwork, formations and fortunes. This was a team that started with a shocking loss, and bounced back after many had written them off. Del Bosque put together a mix of Spain’s most experienced players and some of Spain’s most promising youth, and the result was something the Spanish people had only dreamed of—they were crowned champions of the world!
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First, I want to congratulate Jesús Navas and the rest of La Furia Roja on making it to the country’s first World Cup Final! While Navas hasn’t seen action since the group stages, it is a great accomplishment to be on the team, and considering he is warming the bench along with players like David Silva, Cesc Fabregas, and Fernando Torres, I don’t think he should feel too bad. Del Bosque only uses Navas when Iniesta in not on the field. I don’t think I have seen both on the field through any of the warm-ups or World Cup. So, as long as Iniesta remains in superb form, I don’t think we will see Navas in the final at any time where the outcome is not already decided.
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As the domestic leagues take a backseat to the action in South Africa this month, I wanted to take some time and comment about the Sevilla players in the World Cup and their performances thus far. Please feel free to agree or disagree, as this article is mostly opinion. Read the rest of this entry »