La Liga allows for no distractions and on Sunday there will be a game in Nervión against none other than the second placed team, RCD Espanyol. However, despite the convincing result secured only two weeks ago in Nervión, Sevilla would be foolish to strip importance from what awaits them tonight against Akhisar, a club who are still having difficulty in the league. In fact, although they have moved up from the bottom two spots, they are only one point behind the first team in the relegation zone, surprisingly Fenerbahçe. This is Sevilla's fourth visit to Turkey in their history. They had never won there before, with defeats against Eskişehirspor in the 70s and Fenerbahçe in 2008, but they broke the streak last summer against Istanbul Basaksehir.
After Krasnodar's defeat in Belgium, getting the three points against the last team in the group is essential to secure our passage to the Round of 32. In fact, considering the team's superb goal difference, it seems that two victories in the remaining three matches would be enough. In this way, a win in the recently inaugurated Akhisar Arena would almost certainly allow for a slight slip-up in the two remaining matches against the other two hopefuls. The win will have to come without the two main strikers who remain in Sevilla due to injury, and with the same 18 men that travelled to San Sebastián after Maxime Gonalons had to stay in Sevilla due to a fever. Even so, as José Castro himself recalled, the spectacular 6-0 win two weeks ago was secured without André Silva or Ben Yedder, both of them being on the bench.
Despite the big win over the Turkish side in the last matchday, we must not take our foot of the gas
It will be Sevilla's fourth visit to Turkey and their third to the Asian part of the country, since of the previous matches only the one against Istanbul Basaksehir took place in the European side of Istanbul. Fenerbahçe, from the Asian section of Istanbul, Eskişehirspor and Akhisarspor are geographically in the peninsula of Anatolia, with belongs almost completely to Turkey. But beyond geography, Sevilla's visit will be a big occasion for Akhisar, a small city of just more than 1,000 inhabitants who are playing only their second home match in Europe in their history. The match against Krasnodar on the first matchday was the first for this club founded in 1970 and which, until 2012, was resigned to the lower divisions of Turkish football. However, their unexpected success in the Turkish Cup last season, along with winning the Supercup some months after, has allowed them to experience this European journey.
Even so, reality is setting in and it can't be said that Akhisar are having things their way so far in the tournament. They have conceded nine goals - six of them in the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán - and they have only scored once, Onur Ayik's in Belgium although that did not translate into points. They are only one of the five teams who are still to pick up a point with the group stages halfway through, joining Bordeaux, Dudelange, Qarabag and Rosenberg. They are therefore an ideal opponent to face to take charge of the group, but against whom there is no room for relaxation as Europe, no matter who you play, is always demanding.
Should they win, Pablo Machín's men would take charge of the group with two matches to go
The referee, always interesting given the enormous range of possibilities in Europe, will be the Frenchman Benoît Millot, who at 36 years old will be making his debut in the group stages of a European competition. Curiously, his only relation with Sevilla thus far was two seasons ago, when he refereed the Round of 16 in the UEFA Youth League between Sevilla and Atletico Madrid in the Cerro del Espino.