IT’S Europa League semi-final time with Sevilla looking to retain their crown. Can Unai Emery’s side take a first leg lead against Fiorentina on Thursday night? Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) checks out the betting.
Sevilla v Fiorentina | Thursday 20.05 | ITV4
It was 14 months in the making and a span of 34 games but finally Sevilla were defeated at the Ramon Sánchez Pizjuán. Saturday night’s 3-2 loss at home to Real Madrid was as breathless as it was exciting; another example of why La Liga stands head and shoulders above the opposition.
But despite their wonderful home record ending, boss Unai Emery left with plenty of positives. For starters, the hosts were competitive for the full 90 minutes and can point towards Grzegorz Krychowiak’s absence for eight minutes receiving treatment as the reason behind their loss. Cristiano Ronaldo struck twice in as many minutes whilst the Pole was off the field; bar that numerical advantage, Real were no better nor worse than the Europa League holders.
Sevilla fired in 18 shots and carved out enough opportunities in a late rally to easily be just of a point. And you get the feeling Emery’s charges will now be gunning for Fiorentina on Thursday night as they bid to turn on the style once more in continental competition. At 5/6 (William Hill) I’ll be sinking my teeth into the Andalusians.
During that 34-game streak, the Rojiblancos came out unscathed against Porto, Valencia (x2), Barcelona, Gladbach, Zenit and Atletico amongst others and prior to their weekend defeat, Emery’s men had W11-D4-L0 in all competitions and recorded six successive Europa League victories before a 2-2 draw in Zenit secured their path to the semi-finals.
In Europe’s hottest city, Fiorentina will need to bring their A-game if they’re to survive. La Viola were beaten just twice in 19 matches in early 2015 but following a Coppa Italia semi-final collapse against bitter rivals Juventus, Vincenzo Montella’s men have seen their season begin to unravel.
Four successive Serie A defeats – their worst run since 2005 – ended with a win over struggling Cesena last time out but Champions League football via the league is effectively out of Fiorentina’s reach. And Montella’s bringing his entire squad to Seville (including ineligible players) in the hope of uniting the squad during a difficult time of the campaign.
The Florence club have lost five of their previous eight matches but the Europa League has been their solace. A draw in Kiev and home victory saw Dynamo dumped out at the quarter-finals and it should be noted that La Viola are unbeaten on their travels in continental competition this season, always managing to score.
Fiorentina’s boss has faithfully stuck to their philosophy of attacking football home and away and is likely to rest his hopes on January arrival Mohamed Salah, whose pace and trickery has added an extra dimension to the side. With the hosts losing centre-back Nicolas Pareja to a long-term injury and recording just three clean sheets in 11, Salah and co will fancy their chances of nicking an away goal.
Both Teams To Score has been chalked up at 5/6 (888 Sport) but there’s not enough juice to entice me into a single so I’ll stick to my punt on Sevilla at the same price and instead have a couple of quid on Sevilla to win + Both Teams To Score at Bwin’s 16/5 – it’s a bet that’s proven a winner in three of the Rojiblancos’ last five at the Ramon Sánchez Pizjuán.
Sevilla v Fiorentina – Sevilla to win (5/6 William Hill)
Sevilla v Fiorentina – Sevilla to win and Both Teams To Score (16/5 Bwin)