Sunday, July 14, 2024

Sevilla eye next round against struggling Stuttgart

Sevilla have the chance to book their place in the knockout phase of the Champions League with a win over German side VfB Stuttgart at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan here on Wednesday.

Sevilla have won all three of their Champions League games to top Group G on nine points while Stuttgart have just two and defeat would almost certainly spell the end of their fading chances.

The Spanish side, third in their domestic league behind Barcelona and Real Madrid, laboured to a 2-0 win over Xerez on Saturday with coach Manolo Jimenez admitting his team probably had their minds on the Stuttgart game.

“I want to emphasise how tremendously difficult it is to play these games two, three days before a Champions League match,” said Jimenez.

“How do you explain to the team that these three points are vital, when they know that a win against Stuttgart would practically guarantee our progress in the Champions League?

“I know Stuttgart are a great team; we saw that in the first half of the last match. We know what we need to do to win.

“In general, we try to be a balanced side, not allowing our opponents many chances while creating our own opportunities and we hope to continue this way.”

Jimenez has injury doubts over experienced goalkeeper Andres Palop and Brazilian wing-back Adriano, with Mali international striker Frederic Kanoute rated very doubtful for the game.

“He (Kanoute) is a bigger doubt to be back in time because he has not got back on the pitch and the days are running out quickly,” said Jimenez.

Stuttgart, hovering just above the Bundesliga relegation zone, have injury problems of their own with Mexican international Ricardo Osorio and Christian Trasch sustaining injuries in the 0-0 draw with Bayern Munich at the weekend.

“I think we saw the spirit in the team against Bayern and we were worthy of a point,” said Stuttgart midfielder Roberto Hilbert.

“Now we have to take the positive things from the Bayern game into the Sevilla match which will be a very difficult game.”

Coach Markus Babbel, formerly of Liverpool and the German national side, will be aware of the task in hand after watching Sevilla win 3-1 over his side on their own patch a fortnight ago and must somehow find a way to stop Sevilla’s potent strikeforce of Luis Fabiano and Alvaro Negredo.

The two are dangerous in the air and have been provided with great ammunition by winger Jesus Navas, a revelation this season on the right wing.

Jimenez believes the uncapped Navas, 23, is a possible outsider to gate-crash the Spain squad for next summer’s World Cup in South Africa.

“I think he is mature enough and experienced enough to become a full international,” said Jimenez.

“The best players go to the national team and Navas is one of the best in his position.”

Sevilla, UEFA Cup winners in 2006 and 2007, beat Stuttgart 2-0 in last season’s UEFA Cup first group stage and a similar result will see them progress to the Champions League knockout phase with two games to spare.

For Stuttgart, anything less than a win will likely spell the end of their Champions League adventure and give them a chance to concentrate on moving away from the relegation zone at home.

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