Sevilla are preparing to host Borussia Dortmund in a cracking Champions League round of 16 clash at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.
This is Sevilla’s first Champions League knockout tie for three years. Not since they lost to Bayern Munich in 2018 have they graced the latter stages of Europe’s premiere competition, but now they’re back and again it’s against Bundesliga oppoosition.
This time, however, they will be more confident of progressing through their German opponents. Dortmund are a formidable side full of attacking talent, but they are weak at the back and Julen Lopetegui will already be constructing a counter-attacking plan.
Sevilla are available at 13/10 with SkyBet to win on Wednesday night while Dortmund, who often secure a sizeable ‘neutral’ support, are rated at 2/1. (18+ only. Odds correct at time of publication. T&Cs apply. BeGambleAware.)
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Rock solid at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan
Sevilla represent a side that made their name in the previous two decades on their swashbuckling attacking play. The likes of Dani Alves, Fredi Kanoute, Jesus Navas, Ivan Rakitic, Wissam Ben Yedder, etc. and with a coach as proactive and positive as Lopetegui you would expect this to continue.
But Lopetegui has built his side around a different unit: the defence. Specifically the centre-back pairing of Jules Koundé and Diego Carlos and defensive midfielder Fernando. This terrific trio do so much to protect the Sevilla goal that the Andalusians have the second-best defensive record in La Liga with 10 clean sheets and just 16 goals conceded (and when first-place is Atlético Madrid, second is great).
The key to everything is of course Koundé, the impossibly athletic and incredibly skilled 22-year-old French centre-back. While Carlos is indeed impressive and Fernando adds veteran savvy, it’s Koundé’s ridiculous dynamism that makes Sevilla hum.
1-v-1 Koundé can shut down almost anyone, and his ability to cover spaces makes it so hard to counter Sevilla. He will be key to keeping the devastating speed of Erling Haaland in check. While there might be no one capable of actually keeping up with Haaland, Koundé is as likely a candidate that you’ll find.
And that’s not all because with the ball Koundé is a revelation. No centre-back has created more chances than him in La Liga (7) and he’s attempted and completed the most take-ons (18/22) of any centre-back as well. The things Koundé can do with the ball at his feet and the ease with which he manipulates the ball is more representative of a winger than a centre-back. It shouldn’t be possible that he’s so good, but he is. Unquestionably one of the most dominant defenders in the world right now.
In the name of love
Then if you have the good fortune to get past Sevilla’s sterling defenders (and Sevilla have faced 212 shots which is sixth in La Liga, so it is possible) you will still encounter a brick wall in Yacine Bounou. The Moroccan goalkeeper has been impressive this season but especially so lately where he has been flying about his goal to deny opponents.
Bounou will have to be in great form because as good as Koundé is, Haaland is an absolute monster. Since the start of last season he has 16 goals in the Champions League (only Robert Lewandowski has more) and further, Haaland’s conversion rate is a staggering 44.44%, the highest among all players in that timeframe who took at least 20 shots.
Luckily for Sevilla, in 2021 only one goalkeeper has made more saves than Bounou (22) in La Liga yet no one has kept more clean sheets (4). He’s been made to work hard but has proven himself up to the task almost every single time. Protected by Koundé andCarlos, he will feel confident of shutting down a dynamic Dortmund side and allowing Sevilla’s forwards to find a goal from somewhere to win the tie.
New signing Papu Gomez will hope to help with that. Since the start of 2019/20 only two men have created more big chances than him (11) in the Champions League. That creativity could slice and dice on a Dortmund defence that has conceded 31 goals in the Bundesliga so far this season and is currently on a run of just one win in their last six (with zero clean sheets in that time).