Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 27/20
At the end of this week, the finalists of all three UEFA competitions will be known. On Thursday, the second legs of the semifinals are up, and while Bayer Leverkusen host AS Roma after losing 1-0 in Rome, Sevilla will welcome Juventus to their Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium after drawing the Turin game 1-1.
The La Liga side went ahead after 25 minutes as Youssef En-Nesyri broke the deadlock, but the Italian giants made sure they went to Spain on level ground through a 97th-minute equalizer from Federico Gatti.
It hasn’t been a very good season for Sevilla on the domestic scene. There were moments, especially early on, when it seemed they might even be forced to fight for their place in the Spanish top flight in 2023/24, but their results eventually picked up and now, they might even qualify for Europe again even if they don’t win the Europa League.
At the moment, Jose Mendilibar’s team are 10th, but on the same tally (47 points) as Osasuna in ninth and Athletic Bilbao in eighth, and with just one point less than Girona in seventh.
Sevilla’s form has been very good lately. Their last-six run in all competitions consists of four wins, one draw and one defeat. They first beat Villarreal at home by 2-1, then Athletic 0-1 in Bilbao, lost 0-2 at home to Girona, beat Espanyol at home by 3-2, played the first leg against Juventus 1-1, and smashed Valladolid away 0-3 a couple of days ago.
Mendilibar won’t be able to call upon defender Marcao (muscle), midfielder Joan Jordan (unspecified injury) and winger Suso through injury.
Winger Lucas Ocampos, who assisted En-Nesyri’s opener before leaving the pitch injured eight minutes later, is a doubt at this point, but if there’s a chance for him to be ready in time, he’ll surely start.
Yassine Bounou will be in goal. Nemanja Gudelj and Loic Bade should pair up in the middle of the park, with Jesus Navas on the right and Marcos Acuna on the left. Ivan Rakitic and should join Fernando in the middle of the park. As has been said, Ocampos will surely start as part of the trio supporting En-Nesyri upfront, together with Oliver Torres and Bryan Gil. If not, his place will probably be taken by Erik Lamela.
For Juventus, the season arguably hasn’t been as exciting on the pitch as off it. They had some issues early on but they soon sorted them out and started looking very serious again, when a 15-point deduction hit them due to alleged financial rule breaking in the past. That verdict was later revoked for the time being and their points have been handed back to them, though the final resolution of the situation is still to come.
Be that as it may, the Bianconeri have climbed all the way up to second place, a fine place to be given the fact that there was no competing with Napoli this term. A triumph over Empoli next Monday would see Massimiliano Allegri’s team secure a place in the top four and in next season’s Champions League, leaving the likes of Inter Milan, Lazio and AC Milan to scramble over the remaining two slots.
Juventus have had a slightly weaker last-six run in all competitions than Sevilla, winning three matches, drawing two and losing one. The list includes a 1-0 defeat to Inter in the second leg of the Coppa Italia semifinal, a 1-1 draw away to Bologna, a 2-1 win at home over Lecce, a 0-2 win away to Atalanta, the 1-1 draw at home against Sevilla, and a 2-0 home win over Cremonese.
Midfielder Paul Pogba, who obviously can’t catch a break injury-wise, is out. The same goes for wing-back Mattia De Sciglio and veteran defender Leonardo Bonucci, who has announced his retirement after next season.
Wojciech Szczesny will be in goal, with first-leg hero Gatti, instead of Bonucci, joining Alex Sandro and Danilo in the back three. Manuel Locatelli will pair up with Adrien Rabiot in the middle of the park, while Nicolo Fagioli roams a bit further up. The midfield trio will have Filip Kostic on the left and Juan Cuadrado on the right, while Angel Di Maria supports Dusan Vlahovic upfront.
One might say that Juventus got away with it in the first leg as Sevilla looked brighter for a larger part of the game. The Bianconeri aren’t likely to remain undefeated again, this time at the Pizjuan, unless they raise their game significantly.
Verdict: Home win
Best odds: 27/20
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