If there is one team that deproves the theory regarding home advantage, it is Sevilla FC. Of the 18 consecutive Europa League knockout ties, a record in the competition, more than half – a total of 10 – have come with Sevilla having to play the first leg at home. And in every game bar one Sevilla picked up a win, putting the tie in the hands to finish it off away from the Sánchez-Pizjuán.
Mladost Podgorica, Slask Wroclaw, Valencia, Borussia Monchengladbach, Zenit, Fiorentina, Molde, Újpest and Zalgiris were no match for Sevilla in Nervión and their elimination was confirmed at their own pitches. The tenth is Betis, the only team who Sevilla have had to comeback against in the second leg. It is now time to keep this run going against Slavia Prague, one of the big surprises in the round of 32 and not only for their passage to the round of 16, but also for the way in which they secured their qualification, routing Genk in Belgium (4-1) after a dangerous 0-0 in the first leg.
The rout in Belgium to eliminate Genk was one of the surprises of the previous round
Although the Czech’s best performance came in 95/96 when they reached the semi-final, beating Roma and falling at the penultimate hurdle against Zinedine Zidane’s Bordeaux, Slavia had never got passed the group stage in the competition’s new format. Eliminating the Belgiums was a massive accomplishment for the Czech’s – indeed, the majority of questions in Trpišovský’s press conference before the game were centred around that topic.
All this comes in a time when Sevilla is not exactly going through their best moment of the season. Even so, their European pedigree gives them a lot of authority, even more so after comfortably dispatching SS Lazio in the middle of a bad run. Without Aleix Vidal and the suspended Franco Vázquez, the best news regarding the squad is the return of a key player in Carriço and the academy player Bryan Gil who had not been in the previous few first-team squads.
Sevilla’s European pedigree gives them a lot of authority despite the bad run they’re going through
If there is another key player in the script, it is Tomas Vaclík who will come up against a team from his country for the second time since arriving in Nervión. However, he has only crossed paths with a player from Slavia Prague once, the midfielder Tomas Soucek, when they were both called up in November for the Czech Republic’s international fixtures. Vaclík did not concede in the 180 minutes against Sigma Olomouc nor against Lazio, a statistic that he will hope to maintain into the quarter-finals.
The Frenchman Ruddy Buquet will supervise the game. At 42 years old, he earned the right to referee internationally in 11/12. His debut in Nervión and his only time refereeing Sevilla came in September 2014 when he refereed the team’s 2-0 win over Feyenoord in the Europa League group stage. He has never refereed Slavia, although he has supervised their arch rivals – Sparta Prague – three times before, as well as Slovan Liberec and Viktoria Plzen.