Sevilla’s Europa League Three-Peat More Than Just A Fluke

For the past many years Sevilla FC has proved to be one of the better teams in the Spanish first division. Though they haven’t had many Champions League finishes no team can ever undermine their ability to pull off an upset, a lesson learned the hard way  recently by FC Barcelona drawing against the Los Palanganas at Mestalla. Though their domestic presence is formidable, their European conquests are the stuff of legends. Sevilla have won the Europa League a record 5 times, 3 of which came consecutively between 2013 and 2016 under the leadership of their manager Unai Emery. A feat no-one had ever accomplished in the competition or since. However, what many people don’t know is that history could have been very different.

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Sevilla finished the 2012-13 season at the 9th position the same position they held the previous year. Although the European spots by convention were to be held by the top 7 teams, however the 6th place Malaga faced a 4 year European ban due to overdue payables, and the 8th place Rayo Vallecano couldn’t participate due to their creditor contest, giving the spot to Sevilla by default.

With the flukey prospect of playing in the Europa League, Sevilla opened their wallets and bolstered their attack with the signings of Kevin Gameiro from PSG and Carlos Bacca from Club Brugge, especially with club icons Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo both departing to Manchester City.

Bacca would start as the striker but would drop down deep in the mid-field and taking part in the build up play while Jose Antonio Reyes and Vitolo would provide width to the team on the flanks. The mid-field was augmented by the spectacle known as Ivan Rakitic who was also the captain of the team and behind him completing that mid-field were Vincente Iborra and Jairo Samperio. In defense, Fernando Navarro and Coke covered the left and right flanks respectively while the central partnership of the 2 Argentinian center backs: Nicolas Pareja and Fredrico Fazio was pivotal and behind them guarding the net was the Portuguese Goalkeeper,  Beto between the sticks.

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In the Europa League, Sevilla topped group H going undefeated in all 6 matches. In the round of 32, Sevilla faced the Slovenian Champions: Maribor. In a very close tie Sevilla went ahead with a 4-3 aggregate score. In a rather interesting turn of events, in the Round of 16 was going to play their sworn enemies Real Betis, the other half of the Seville derby. Though Sevilla lost the away game 2-0 Unai Emery didn’t give up on his troops and Sevilla made an impressive comeback to move forward to the Quarter Finals to face Porto. After thrashing Porto in the last-8 and just beating Valencia on away goals in the semi-finals, Sevilla faced the previous year’s runner up Benfica. In a hard fought match both teams failed to score, taking the game to penalties which ended 4-2 with Kevin Gameiro converting the last penalty.

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In the new season Iago Aspas was brought in on loan from Liverpool to support Bacca and Ever Banega was brought in to fill that Ivan Rakitic shaped hole in that mid-field following his departure to FC Barcelona. Unai Emery was determined to bring European glory once again to Mestalla, repeating what the club had done in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons.

This time getting past the group stage was not as easy for Unai’s troopers beating 3rd placed Rijeka on the final day. Sevilla went past Borussia Monchengladbach in the round of 32 winning both the matches. In the Round of 16, they beat their local rivals Villareal with ease reaching the quarter finals winning all of their ties till now. In the quarter finals, had a very close encounter against Zenit. Then in the semi-finals, Sevilla showed their class sweeping the floor with Fiorentina beating them 5-0 on aggregate. In the final, Sevilla faced FC Dnipro. It was a high scoring match with Sevilla winning 2-3. The man of the match was Bacca scoring twice including the winner in his last game for the club. This win meant that Sevilla became the club who had won the competition the most times in its’ history ie.4 times.

After the departure of Carlos Bacca, Emery brought in reinforcements in the forms of Fernando Llorente and Ciro Immobile. However, Immobile had suffered an injury during the pre-season and after not the greatest of spells in Sevilla he was sent on loan to Turin and then eventually sold to Lazio.

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In the 2015-16 season, due the new rule of the winner of the Europa league being able to participate in the Champions League in the following season even if they didn’t finish in the qualifying positions in the table, Sevilla was able to play Champions League football even though they finished 5th in the league.

In the Champions League, Sevilla was part of Group-D, which was the so called group of death of that season consisting of heavy hitters like Juventus and Manchester City along with Borussia Mochengladbach and finished 3rd by a 5 point margin and hence were knocked down to the Europa League. In the Round of 32, Sevilla knocked out Molde with ease, similarly comfortably knocking out Basel in the Round of 16 with a 3-0 aggregate. In the quarter finals, Sevilla faced a real battle against Athletic Bilbao with both the legs of the tie ending 1-2, however Sevilla made it past Athletic winning on penalties. In the semi-finals the Spanish boys made it past the Shakhtar Donetsk, winning the second leg at home and reaching the final once again. Emery and his boys were hell bent on making it 3 in a row, an unprecedented achievement but they faced a tough challenge against Liverpool. Unai’s team really brought their A-game to the most important game of their season and claimed the trophy with a straightforward 3-1 win accomplishing one of the greatest achievements of the footballing world: winning the Europa League 3 times in a row.

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It is funny how one of the greatest records of the footballing world exists because 2 teams failed to meet the UEFA guidelines. Had even one of Malaga and Rayo Vallecano met those conditions, Sevilla might not have the reputation they currently possess all over Europe

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