While there are plenty of reasons for Sevilla to be proud of their status as three-time reigning Europa League champions, the objective is to not have the opportunity for a fourth.
In need of a victory to jump-start their Champions League campaign, Sevilla host Olympique Lyon on Tuesday.
Sevilla opened play in Group H with a scoreless draw at Juventus on Sept. 14, creating a sense of urgency to take the full three points this time. The inability to sweep all three matches at home last year losing 3-1 to Manchester City was a key reason they were dumped into the Europa League, where they regrouped to claim the title.
Sevilla are sixth in a tightly packed La Liga on 10 points, but trail frontrunners Real Madrid by only four through six matches. The offense, though, continues to be a cause for concern the Andulasian side has scored just five goals in its last six matches across all competitions after opening the season with a 6-4 victory over Espanyol.
Los Rojiblancos are trying to regroup from a 3-1 defeat Saturday at Athletic Bilbao in which goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu was given a straight red card for elbowing Adruiz and forced midfielder Iborra into net for the final two minutes after conceding the ensuing penalty. The Italy international struck didn’t appear to be provoked after collecting a ball safely in front of the Bilbao striker.
“We are very hurt because we wanted the victory,” midfielder Vitolo told Sevilla’s official website after their road winless streak in La Liga was extended to 22 matches (0-11-11). “It was one of our best games but they won the match.”
A bright spot for the Andulasians was the play of Samir Nasri, who accounted for their offence with a well-taken goal that briefly leveled the match in the second half. Coach Jorge Sampaoli could give the France international and Manchester City loanee the start in midfield after a productive week in which he also had an assist on Gabriel Mercado’s match-winner midweek versus Real Betis.
“Nasri played a great match, at the height of his quality, and he will bring that a lot this year,” the Argentine manager said. “It winds up being the drive of the team and we are excited he gives us that extra quality needed by the team.”
While their road woes domestically are well-documented, Sevilla have been strong at home in European competition, compiling a 12-0-2 mark during their run as Europa League champions. But both of those losses came last season _ one to Manchester City in Champions League group play and to Bilbao in the first leg of the Europa League quarterfinals.
Sergio Rico likely will be back in the sticks after posting his third career Champions League shutout against Juventus. He has yielded 11 goals in six lifetime Champions matches. Defender Timothee Kolodziecjzak is available for selection after serving a one-match ban in the group opener for his red card in the UEFA Super Cup.
Lyon are the unlikely leaders of Group H after a convincing 3-0 home victory over Dinamo Zagreb on Sept. 14. But that form, save a 5-1 rout of Montpellier on Sept. 21, has not followed Les Gones into domestic play, and they’ve slipped to ninth in the table on 10 points after a 1-0 defeat Saturday to a Lorient side that was languishing among the bottom three.
They have failed to score in their last two road matches and that dip in form has coincided with Alexandre Lacazette’s absence. The France international had scored six goals in his first three matches but has been sidelined since Sept. 10 when he suffered a thigh injury against Bordeaux.
Lacazette was not named on the roster for this match, and manager Bruno Genesio has also dropped wide back Rafael, who left in the first half of Saturday’s loss with a thigh strain. Captain Maxime Gonalons, suspended for the Lorient match, is available for selection. The personnel shortage Saturday forced Genesio into returning to the 4-3-3 formation he used last season, and Rafael’s absence may cause more formation headaches for this match.
The good news for Genesio is that Mathieu Valbuena made his first start since April and can address some of those depth issues. He rocked the bar with a shot Saturday and showed good interplay with fellow striker Nabil Fekir, who himself recently returned from a knee injury suffered in August 2015.
“We had no right to lose this kind of game,” Valbuena told Lyon’s official website. “We must do better and be able to kill off the game. The positive point of the evening is to have played the whole game. It was long and as the game went on, the better I felt. I’m still not 100 percent but it feels good to play.”
Lyon split their two games against Valencia last year in Champions League group play and beat them 2-0 in Spain to improve to 3-4-7 all-time on the road versus Spanish opponents. Sevilla, meanwhile, has not faced a French side since losing twice to PSG in group play in 2010 in the Europa League. Their lone win over a French team was a 2-1 victory over Lille in the round of 16 in the 2006 UEFA Cup.
The teams have only met in preseason friendlies in 2009 and 2014, and Bas Nijhuis will lead a Dutch officiating crew.
Probable Lineups: Sevilla (4-3-3) Rico, Mercado, Pereja, Rami, Escudero, Kranevitter, Iborra, Sarabia, Nasri, Vitolo, Vietto.
Lyon (3-5-2): Lopes, Mbiwa, N’Koulou, Morel, Ferri, Gonalons, Rybus, Tolisso, Darder, Valbuena, Cornet.
Prediction: Draw 2-2.