Andrew Flint –
Sevilla vs Krasnodar – Thursday, December 13, 17:55 GMT/18:55 CET – Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Sevilla, Spain
After a two-year stint in the knockout stages of the Champions League, Sevilla are back in the competition they practically own. Five trophies in 12 years is astonishing, as much for the consistency as for the level reached, but they are in real danger of missing out. They cannot afford to sit back and frustrate Krasnodar, since a positive result for Standard Liege away to Akhisar – who remain pointless after five games – coupled with Sevilla dropping points could see them lose out to the Belgians.
Domestically they are rising to the top of the curd that has been churned to within an inch of its life in La Liga. Real Madrid, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have lost eight games between them already, while only the Catalan giant have won more league games than Sevilla. A quick glance at the current standings doesn’t throw up any apparent surprises; when you look just a few weeks back, however, the likes of Real Sociedad and Alaves were elbowing their way into the party. That Sevilla have stayed the course to stand above the reigning European champions is a testament to Pablo Machin’s direction.
There are question marks over the return to fitness of Jesus Navas. The former Manchester City winger is arguably above Promes in the pecking order but has been battling a muscular injury for weeks in an attempt to be ready for this fixture. Pablo Sarabia is suspended too, meaning a further reshuffle is inevitable. The question is which set-up will be used. There is a strong suspicion a three-man defence will be repeated after its solidity away to Valencia recently, which would allow for both Wissam Ben Yedder and Andre Silva to continue their partnership up front.
Krasnodar will look back and wonder how on earth they contrived to miss out on the knockout stages if they fail at the last hurdle. A sloppy performance away to Standard Liege – who won all three home matches – aside, they have been flawless on paper, and boast the best defensive record in the group. It would take a collapse of epic proportions to deliver the most unlikely fate at this stage, but it cannot be allowed to seep into their minds that they are safe yet.
With domestic action over, however, unlike their hosts, there is a sense that going for broke will have little downside. There is nothing to save the players’ energy for afterwards as they head off for holidays and then warm-weather training. At the same time, Murad Musaev is a pragmatist who trusts his players though and is unlikely to risk the wrath of club owner Sergey Galitskiy. Too often have the Bulls fallen agonisingly short of achieving their potential; with their ravenous pursuit of Zenit at the top of the Russian Premier League, they can no longer claim to be underdogs.
The loss of talisman Fedor Smolov has barely been noticed, thanks in part to the stunning form of Ari. The Brazilian-born Russian international is a strong doubt for the game, but with the goal threat of Viktor Claesson, the rapier instincts of Ivan Ignatyev and the sheer speed of Wanderson out wide, Ari’s likely absence will cause little consternation for Krasnodar. A point will be enough to win the group, but Sevilla ought to be wary of assuming that is all the visitors will aim for.
Sevilla vs Krasnodar – Players to Watch
Quincy Promes #21 – Sevilla
The Dutchman reigned supreme in the Russian Premier League for a few years, winning the title with Spartak Moscow and scoring bucket loads of goals from a wide forward position. Eventually his big move to a top-five league came in the summer, but he has struggled to make a consistent impact on the starting XI. With recent injuries to Aleix Vidal and Jesus Navas, however, his chance is slowly coming. His only goal for the two-time champions has come in this competition though, and with the added incentive to proving his worth to his old adversaries, his clear threat is obvious.
Ivan Ignatyev #85 – Krasnodar
The time has come for the crown jewel of Sergey Galitskiy’s decade-long project to announce himself on the European stage. Ignatyev already starred in last season’s ground-breaking UEFA Youth League by top scoring in that competition despite only reaching the quarter finals, but he is finally earning a regular starting place with the big boys. An injury to Ari makes the senior Russian international a major doubt, leaving Ignatyev – who has scored three in his last three games – to carry the attacking threat.
Sevilla vs Krasnodar – Match Stats
- Sevilla have won five of their last six home games against Russian clubs
- In Sevilla’s three previous Europa League group stage campaigns, they have gone on to win the whole competition twice
- Sevilla have won all five home European games, scoring 19 and conceding just once
- Despite having won four of their five matches so far – including a dramatic last-gasp 2-1 home win over Sevilla – they can still go out if they lose by at least four goals
- Krasnodar have won seven of their last nine European matches
- They have only won once away from home in each of their last three Europa League group stage campaigns
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Sevilla vs Krasnodar – 1-1
Sevilla vs Krasnodar – Possible Lineups
Vaclik – Mercado, Gomez, Kjaer – Promes, Roque Mesa, Banega, Vazquez, Escudero – Ben Yedder, Andre Silva
Manager: Pablo Machin
Kritsyuk – Stotskiy, Spajic, Martynovich, Ramirez – Gazinskiy, Pereyra, Kabore – Wanderson, Ignatyev, Claesson
Manager: Murad Musaev
Andrew Flint is an English freelance football writer living in Tyumen, Western Siberia, with his wife and two daughters. He has featured on These Football Times, Russian Football News, Four Four Two and Sovetski Sport, mostly focusing on full-length articles about derbies, youth development and the game in Russia. Due to his love for FC Tyumen, he is particularly interested in lower league Russian football and is looking to establish himself in time for the 2018 World Cup. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMijFlint.