One of the matchups in the last 16 of the Europa league competition is a clash between Sevilla against one of Czech Republic’s most famous clubs, Slavia Prague. Sevilla was looking to extend their winning run in the Europa league to four when they welcomed Slavia Prague to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium. The La Liga side was eyeing their ninth consecutive home win in the Europa league and are one of the most successful teams in the Europa league in the 21st century.
On the other hand, the Czechs rolled over Genk in the round of 32 but with Sevilla’s impressive record in the competition and a strong attacking side with the home fixture advantage, not many were backing the Czech giants on the night. In this tactical analysis, I will discuss how Sevilla couldn’t beat the visitors for their ninth consecutive home win in the competition against the underdogs.
How did the teams line up?
Pablo Machin lined out the home side in their usual 3-4-3 formation with pacey french man Wissam Ben Yedder leading the line and Munir and Sarabia playing just outside on the flanks. Playing in behind the forward line was Argentinian attacking midfielder Ever Banega, and former Manchester City winger Jesus Navas started in the wing back role alongside Wober. Napoli loanee Marko Rog got the nod in central midfield ahead of former Swansea City man Roque Mesa, and the usual back three consisted of Sergi Gomez, Mercado and the rock in the middle, Simon Kjaer.
In the other side, Jindřich Trpišovský set his team up with two strikers in the 4-3-1-2. Centre half Simon Deli played alongside defensive partner Ondřej Kúdela with Soucek sitting in front of them as the number 6. Alex Kral played as the box to box midfielder for the side with Marko Stoch playing in the number 10 role, and striker duo Zierhal and Masopust lead the line.
Sevilla’s Thrilling Start
It didn’t take long for the home side to open the scoring when Wissam Ben Yedder slotted home just 24 seconds into the game. From the Sevilla kick off a long ball was played out wide but ended up in the arms of the Slavia Prague goalkeeper. Sevilla’s attacking team shape showed it was going to cause the away side problems right from the off. Some poor passing from the Prague defenders around the back caused Sevilla midfielder Ever Banega to press high who anticipated the pass and intercepted the ball, who then slipped in Ben Yedder through on goal who calmly finished into the bottom corner to make it 1-0.
To start with, Slavia started very nervously at the back having to go back and forth to the goalkeeper until the defensive midfielder dropped in to receive the ball. Sevilla scorer Ben Yedder chased down the ball from behind forcing midfielder Soucek to get rid of the ball quickly, but teammate Alex Kral wasn’t expecting to receive the ball and stumbled. This is when Banega read the game intelligently and took a gamble which opened up the space giving him a few options to set up a goal; in which he picked out the right one as the Argentinian usually does, adding another assist to his name.
After conceding so early on you could arguably say the game was already over, but Slavia stuck to their plan and made it hard for the Sevilla side to break them down. The visitors were the more aggressive team and showed some great physical ability on and off the ball. Both teams were happy letting each other keep possession of the ball inside their own half waiting on a mistake to occur to go on the counter-attack. Slavia knew when to sit back and let the opposition have possession but also knew when to press.
A lot of their attacks came from a high press in the final third and in one situation helped in the build-up of their first goal to equalise. This worked because when the Sevilla defence was trying to play it out from the back the strikers were coming back into midfield to help put the pressure on them giving them no option but to run the ball into danger or lose possession.
Most counter attacks from both sides came from playing the ball out from the central defenders who then switched the play to dangerous areas. This happened many times throughout the game especially for Sevilla where Simon Kjaer would carry the ball into midfield and look for wingers or full backs overlapping. Sevilla used this tactic to their advantage due to their defender’s vision to pick out a pass from distance and to execute. With wingers such as Navas and Quincy Promes who featured in the second half, have the pace to get in behind the opponent’s defenders and have the skill to take the ball down with one touch and get through on goal.
This is an effective tactic used by Pablo Machin and his team and it works very well against narrow formations as it did against Slavia Prague. Fortunately for Slavia, they defended well and kept the pressure on the Spaniards closing them down quickly causing them to make errors as shown in the image above and keeping the scoreline level at the break.
Emphasis on set pieces
Set pieces were crucial for both teams to score in this fixture. Both teams had their fair share of corners; Prague with 2 and Sevilla racking up 5, with each team scoring from one. Sevilla’s second goal came from a well-drilled corner routine where Midfielder Munir sat well outside the box making it look like he wasn’t going to be involved in the box. Munir was left unmarked and a perfect inswinging cross from Argentinian midfielder Ever Banega was delivered for Munir to sneak in and volley it home to give the home side the lead once again. With Sevilla’s powerful defenders causing the opposition trouble inside the area, Prague’s defence got distracted and lost concentration leaving Munir free around the eighteen-yard box. Corner taker Banega spots this and has no problem finding his fellow teammate at the back post, tallying his second assist of the game.
Slavia Prague didn’t give up hope and kept playing aggressively even after going behind twice in the first half, which frustrated their opponents. A corner was given in the away sides favour which was crossed in by Prague’s first goalscorer Miroslav Stoch, and the impressive young midfielder Alex Král converted what seemed to hit off his shoulder to give his team an unlikely equaliser. Poor marking from the Sevilla defence and good delivery from Stoch made it possible for the away side to come back once again.
Late on in the second half, both teams were letting each other keep possession in their own half. Sevilla’s Roque Mesa was introduced to keep possession of the ball and to block the passing lanes. Sevilla came the most likely to score late on as good team pressing won back possession and had many chances on goal to grab the winner with the likes of Ben Yedder and Promes running at the defence, but the Czech goalkeeper put in a great performance and made some crucial saves to keep the scoreline level until the full-time whistle, leaving the home fans shocked that they didn’t score more.
Slavia Prague will be happy to go away with a draw and two away goals against a dangerous Sevilla side currently sitting sixth in the La Liga table. With Sevilla mostly dominating the game with 65% possession and creating 24 more chances in the game than the other team, the Czech giants who are currently at the top of the Czech First league table, played to their strengths and physicality to keep out a dangerous Sevilla side and secure a draw away from home. Sevilla was the out and out favourites to come out of the game with a win, but the Czech republicans will be confident taking them on at the Eden Arena on 14th March and who knows; an upset could be on the cards!