One of this season’s Europa League semi-finals will be rife with Spanish flair, as Sevilla and Valencia lock horns, with both aiming to progress to the final at the Juventus Stadium on 14 May 2014.
The first leg of the tie will see Sevilla boss Unai Emery welcome his old club, Valencia, to the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, and he will be desperate to get one over his former employers.
Emery, who was boss at the Mestalla for four years before leaving the club in 2012, insists he is not underestimating his previous team despite the fact Valencia are languishing down in eighth place in La Liga, per Paul Bryan of UEFA.com:
Ours are two very even teams in every sense.
It would be a mistake to think we’re the favourites to go through because of the current Liga standings. Valencia are a great team and our sole objective now is focusing on [Thursday’s first leg] against them.
It’d certainly be foolish to underestimate Los Che, especially after the manner in which they qualified for this semi-final.
Who wil win the first leg?
Trailing 3-0 from the first leg against FC Basel, Valencia produced a stirring comeback to beat the Swiss outfit 5-0 after extra time at the Mestalla thanks to a hat-trick from Paco Alcacer.
Sevilla also qualified for this one after overturning a first-leg deficit. They lost 1-0 to Porto at the Estadio Dragao before turning in a virtuoso performance in the second leg to triumph 4-1 on the night, 4-2 on aggregate.
Ahead of this all-Spanish affair, here is all the information you need on where and when to catch the game live and what you should expect from this intriguing tie.
Date: 24 April 2014
Time: 8:05 p.m. BST, 3:05 p.m. ET
Live Stream: ITV Player (U.K.)
TV Info: Fox Sports 1 (U.S.)
Ahead of this one, it’s Sevilla who look like the form team.
Some superb showings in recent weeks have seen Los Rojiblancos scythe up the La Liga standings to within just three points of Athletic Bilbao and a Champions League spot.
Emery has this team playing an enterprising yet effective brand of football that has seen Sevilla win nine of their last 10 domestic games, per WhoScored.com. They have a host of players who have come into form just at the perfect moment, and if they can win the Europa League and secure Champions League football for next season, it’ll be viewed as a magnificent return at the the Sanchez Pizjuan.
Emery is doing a fine job at the Andalusian team, and it’s left many supporters wondering if he could do a job in the Premier League—maybe even in the now-vacant Old Trafford hot seat:
If we're insisting on a change then Unai Emery or maybe Frank de Boer. If it's the former he can bring Rakitic with him #problemssolved— Dan (@bozi1988) April 21, 2014
The man to keep an eye on for Sevilla in this one is Croatian schemer Ivan Rakitic. The midfielder has been consistently creative this season, driving the team forward and making key contributions for Los Rojiblancos at vital moments.
Rakitic has bagged 12 goals and 10 assists this season, per WhoScored.com, and Valencia will have to be at their absolute best if they are to nullify his influence on the game.
Whilst everything is looking rosy in Andalusia, Valencia are have a frustrating finish to their domestic campaign. They’re languishing off the pace in eighth position in La Liga, so Juan Antonio Pizzi’s team knows it needs to win this tournament if it is to give its fans European football again next season.
The star man for Valencia in this competition has been the aforementioned Alcacer. The 20-year-old forward has netted seven times in seven starts in this competition, per WhoScored.com, including that stunning hat-trick to drag Los Che past Basel in the quarter-finals.
His treble sparked wild celebrations in the Spanish city, as demonstrated here:
Picture of incredible celebrations in Valencia at the moment tweeted by hat-trick hero Paco Alcacer pic.twitter.com/lb2xvpqzC8— Daniella Matar (@DaniellaMatar) April 10, 2014
Expect a pair of exciting ties between these two, with both sides playing with attacking intent, pace and positivity. The onus will be on Sevilla to take the initiative in the first leg, whilst Valencia will be keen to get out with an away goal and win the tie in the second leg at the Mestalla.