14.09.2016 10:30 - in: Champions League S

    The view from Spain

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    Ahead of Wednesday night’s match, Juventus.com receives European football journalist Jason Pettigrove’s insights on Jorge Sampaoli’s new-look Sevilla side

    European football journalist and Senior Sub Editor of MARCA in English, Jason Pettigrove, provides Juventus.com with the full lowdown on tonight’s visitors to Juventus Stadium.

    JFC: What was the reaction from the club and the fans to facing Juventus again in the Champions League for a second consecutive season?

    JP: There was always going to be a ‘top seed’ in the group and although Juve remain a fearsome opponent, the experience of last season means that Sevilla know exactly what to expect.

    Supporters are positive because of the manner of the performance in both legs, and to get a home win at least gives the players some belief that Juve aren’t unbeatable.

    JFC: Would you say that Sevilla have a stronger side now than 12 months ago or vice versa?

    JP: It’s hard to judge after such upheaval and with only a few games played under Sampaoli.

    Twelve summer signings coupled with 15 departures represents a real sea-change in terms of personnel and on paper you’d have to say that Sevilla have lost an awful lot of quality from vital areas.

    That said, Sampaoli is the master at getting the absolute maximum from his players so the time to judge how strong his side are might be a few weeks down the line.

    It took Unai Emery’s outfit six La Liga games before they managed their first victory last season, this year Sevilla have won two from three.

    The new breed are off to a good start so let’s see how they fare.

    JFC: Had it been expected for the club to change manager and so many core players this summer? Which former player will be missed most? Which of the new men has especially caught the eye already?

    JP: I don’t think it’s right to say that a change of manager was expected, but perhaps Unai Emery felt that he had taken the team as far as he could given the resources at his disposal.

    Having lost so many players over the summer, an unusually high number in fact, it’s difficult to pick only one.

    Ever Banega brought industry and creativity to the midfield whilst Yevhen Konoplyanka was a brilliant outlet for Sevilla on the counter attack.

    Similarly, Coke and Grzegorz Krychowiak will be sorely missed.

    However, if you’re going to pin me down, I’d suggest that Kevin Gameiro’s absence will impact on Jorge Sampaoli’s side the most.

    The Frenchman brought more than goals to his central striking role and that’s not easy to replace.

    Pablo Sarabia, an inexpensive capture from Getafe, has certainly made his mark.

    He has two goals and two assists to his name already as well as the attitude that the locals demand, making him definitely one to watch.

    JFC: How do Jorge Sampaoli’s methods and style of play differ from those of Unai Emery?

    JP: Sampaoli is a confirmed disciple of Marcelo Bielsa and has the same attacking outlook.

    He’ll ensure his defence play a high line and that there’s a constant press on the opposition.

    Tinkering with his formations and style isn’t unheard of – just ask Alexis Sanchez or Arturo Vidal - and he was once famously quoted as saying “When there are 10 religions and you only have one, you’re missing out on the other nine.”

    Contrast that with the more conservative and pragmatic Emery.

    Although he likes to have flexibility in the midfield, if there’s a criticism of him it’s that he won’t move away from either a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3.

    The proactive approach from Sampaoli has already begun to win over the locals.

    JFC: Boasting a fine managerial track record at both club and national team level in South America, this is Sampaoli’s first appointment in Europe. How do you think he will fare at Sevilla? What has been the general feeling from fans, the dressing room and the media towards him joining the Rojiblancos?

    JP: Aside from when it appeared that he might take the Argentina job after just having sealed the deal with Sevilla, he’s been very well received.

    His CV speaks for itself and rightly ensures respect from all quarters.

    That said, he needs to get results and we’ve already seen the best and worst of what his team has to offer.

    Scoring eight in three La Liga games is what he’s all about, but letting in five in the same period hints at where the Andalusians need to improve. Quickly.

    JFC: What represents a good season for Sevilla? Where can they expect to finish in La Liga and how far can they go in Europe?

    JP: It’s about time that someone broke the monopoly at the top of the Spanish top flight, which is easier said than done of course.

    That’s where Sampaoli will be aiming and if they’re able to negotiate the Champions League group stages successfully whilst not falling too far behind in the league pecking order, then a good run during the second half of the season isn’t beyond them.

    Consistency has really been the problem for those teams chasing down Barcelona and Real Madrid. Two steps forward, one back.

    For me, they'll finish fourth or fifth at best in La Liga this term.

    The Champions League group hasn’t been kind to them, but they’ll approach every game, home and away, with the same application.

    I’d hope that they’ve enough in the tank to qualify from the group stage but how far they progress from there depends on the draw in the knockout rounds. Last 16 as far as they go for me.

    JFC: For at least the last 12 months, Sevilla have fared far better at home than away. What is it that they are doing to have such a formidable record at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan and what are they perhaps not doing in order to replicate that form on their travels?

    JP: Anyone who has played at the Sanchez-Pizjuan will tell you of its formidable atmosphere.

    There aren’t too many more vocal or more loyal supporters than the Sevillistas and you can’t downplay the effect of the ‘12th man’ – on either set of players.

    Last season was baffling but let’s not forget that apart from their visit to the Santiago Bernabeu when they lost 4-0, Sevilla weren’t outplayed or well beaten on any of their away trips.

    Unai Emery’s almost blanket refusal in some games to change things around tactically probably didn’t help.

    JFC: Which Rojiblanco player in particular do Juventus need to be wary of on Wednesday? Likewise, who have Sevilla identified as the Bianconeri’s biggest threat?

    JP: Vitolo has been buoyed by his selection for the Spanish national team and was excellent against Belgium during the last international break.

    His ball retention qualities are excellent as are his passing stats, and he’ll drive through the lines when given the opportunity.

    If he’s not closed down quickly, Juve could find themselves in trouble.

    The Bianconeri have quality in every department and don’t appear to have suffered any ill-effects of Paul Pogba’s move to Manchester United.

    Winning the midfield battle is crucial but goals win games and Sevilla know that Gonzalo Higuain has plenty of experience against Spanish sides.

    Nico Pareja hasn’t had the greatest start to the campaign in defence for the Spaniards and if Pipita targets him and is given the right service, he’ll be decisive.

    Predicted starting XI

    Rico-Escudero-Rami-Pareja-Mariano-N’Zonzi-Correa-Vitolo-Vazquez-Nasri-Sarabia

    Score prediction

    I don’t expect it to be as clear cut as some are predicting and I also can’t see past a narrow home win for Juve. 2-1 to the hosts.

    Jason Pettigrove

    @jasonpettigrove

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