Sevilla go into their second leg with Manchester United on Tuesday night in awe of their rival’s history in Europe.
What keeps them believing they can still squeeze past them into the quarter-finals is the knowledge that they don’t need to win on the night to be in Friday’s quarter-final draw.
Local paper previews have been full of references to ‘Busby’s Babes’ and the ‘Theatre of Dreams’ and there is recognition that United’s European Cup record towers over Sevilla’s. The Spanish club has only reached the quarter-finals once back in 1958 when it was a very different competition.
Vincenzo Montella is plotting a Champions League upset at Manchester United on Tuesday
They were only playing in it because Real Madrid had won it the previous year meaning a second place finish in La Liga for Sevilla was enough to see them qualify for Europe.
They beat Benfica over two legs, then got past Aarhus before facing Real Madrid in the quarter-finals. They drew the second-leg 2-2 but had lost the first leg 8-0 so they were out.
On Tuesday, 2-2 will do nicely after an impressive first-leg performance. They will need to score though, and that has been a problem for them this season.
The La Liga side travel to Old Trafford knowing a draw will be enough to overcome United
They have found the net just 36 times in La Liga – that’s half the amount of goals leaders Barcelona have managed. Only one other team in the top half of the table has as bad a scoring record.
They brought in Everton’s Sandro Ramirez on loan in January in the hope that he could produce some of his old Malaga form – and not the form that saw him fail at Goodison Park.
He has barely had a chance as Vincenzo Montella has kept faith with Colombian striker Luis Muriel who has only scored six goals in Spain and is yet to get off the mark in the Champions League.
Montella likes the way he holds the ball up and runs the channels and has over-looked his goal-shyness. That would be okay if Sevilla’s second line were prolific but Joaquin Correa, Franco Vazquez and Pablo Sarabia are all creators rather than finishers.
Sevilla have been misfiring in front of goal, scoring only 36 times in the league this season
Former Everton forward Sandro Ramirez was brought in to improve Sevilla’s goal return
Former Manchester City forward Nolito is another who might have been expected to score the goals at the start of the season but he has just three goals in the league so far.
Another former Manchester City player, Jesus Navas, will miss tonight’s game with a thigh problem. He was giving the team some decent attacking thrust down the right arriving from full-back position so he will be missed. As if Montella is not sufficiently hamstrung in the offensive department already.
All this would leave Sevilla supporters hopeless before a ball is kicked but the first leg lifeline says that if they score just once tonight and don’t concede twice they will go through.
They have managed three score draws on English soil in the past – against Bolton in the Europa League in 2005, against Tottenham in the quarter-finals of the Europa league in 2007 and in the group stages of the Champions League against Liverpool this season.
In 2007 Sevilla went on to win the Europa League at Hampden Park. They have won it five times, more than any other club. They have their own European pedigree to be proud of.
But this is not one of those swashbuckling Sevilla sides full of goals and attacking adventure. That would make qualification all the more remarkable as an achievement.