Sevilla vs Roma Betting Preview: Smalling absence could be key for Italians

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SEVILLA meet Roma in a one-off Europa League tie on Thursday night for a place in the quarter-finals. Jack Lambden (@_JackL_) analyses the encounter.

Sevilla vs Roma | Thursday 6th August 2020, 17:55 | BT Sport

It’s little surprise to see both these teams as art of the final sixteen sides left in this season’s Europa League, although it’s the Spaniards that found life a lot more easier in the group stages than their opponents on Thursday evening.

In truth, a group containing APOEL Nicosia, Qarabag and F91 Dudelange is probably one of the easiest any side in pot one will face in the competition’s history but you can only beat what is put in front of you which is exactly what Sevilla did.

Five wins and a draw with 14 goals scored was Lopetegui’s side at a canter so this will undoubtedly be their toughest test outside their domestic campaign yet. Although, if there’s any team who know how to reach the latter stages of this competition and go all the way, it’s Sevilla.

Los Nervionenses have won the Europa League 5 times in the last 15 seasons including three times in succession from 2013 to 2016. It’s an extraordinary record and one the club are all too happy to play up almost every time they feature in Europe and, well, who can blame them? If that was your club, you’d be all too happy to lap it up too.

Jules Koundé 65+ Passes (1/1 PokerStars)

Under Julien Lopetegui, there’s a real emphasis on Sevilla to keep the ball. The team averaged 55.9% possession in La Liga in 2019/20, 3rd only to the obvious Barcelona and Real Madrid. It’s been a component of the coach’s style of play throughout his coaching career, mainly in the Spanish national team set-up.

In coming up against a side that are hesitant in pressing the ball therefore, I’m happy to delve into the Sevilla centre-back passes markets to find some value. A man that has grown in strength over the season since his move from Bordeaux last summer is Jules Koundé. The Frenchman has particularly exuded his dominance with the ball at his feet in Europe, averaging 86.6 passes per game.

With Roma sitting 17th out of 20 in Serie A this season for attacking third pressures this past season, I think Sevilla’s defence will have time on the ball to play out from the back particularly if Edin Dzeko starts here. Koundé is evens with Pokerstars to attempt 65 or more passes and I’m happy to get on board with that for a one point play.

When looking back at Roma’s last four matches matches in the Europa League against relatively decent opposition (although not as good as Sevilla) in Gent and Monchengladbach, their seven centre-backs to complete 90 minutes up against Roma averaged 71.7 passes with six of those hitting the 65 mark.

Sevilla to Score Over 1.5 Goals (6/5 BetVictor)

Although I’m maybe hesitant to back Sevilla on the outrights given Roma’s recent good form, I think the side from Seville can still hurt Fonseca’s men.

Sevilla to score Over 1.5 Goals is 6/5 with BetVictor and will be my second selection here, again worth a single point stake.

My main reason for backing it is Roma’s absence of Chris Smalling, who has now returned to Manchester United at the end of his loan move. Although Smalling has been subject to some ridicule in the past, he had a great season in the Italian capital and Roma will no doubt be gutted that he misses out here.

If you look at the games he has missed or not started for the Romans this season, it does not make pretty reading from a defensive point of view for La Magica. In the three most recent of those matches, they conceded twice each time to Napoli, Inter and more concerningly Wolfsberger AC of Austria.

Sevilla have enough going forward to hurt their Italian rivals in this fixture with Lucas Ocampos and Munir just a couple of players to name that have had a great season in front of goal. Although Roma have strung together a positive run of results, they’ve kept just one clean sheet in their last 14 matches so unless they find an effective defensive balance with the absence of Smalling here, that poor run could continue.

To add to this, the defensive minded midfielder Jordan Veretout is suspended for the game which takes away even more protection for that back four.

With the tie now turning from a two legged affair to a one game shootout for a quarter final place, I think Sevilla could sacrifice a little bit of that defensive nature in their back end of the season (seven clean sheets in 11) to try and exploit Roma’s gaps and progress to the business end of this tournament again.

Best Bets

Sevilla vs Roma – Jules Koundé 65+ Passes (1/1 PokerStars)

Sevilla vs Roma – Sevilla to Score Over 1.5 Goals (6/5 BetVictor)

About Author

I've been betting on football since 2011, a year when I made a fair bit of money on Southampton to win each home game after a New Year's resolution to be more optimistic about my side’s chances. After 21 wins at St Mary’s out of 22, I’d built up a fair pot of money! I enjoy researching (almost!) as much as the winning, using a combination of stats, team news, context and general football knowledge to make my selections. Outside of football, you’ll find me down the pub enjoying a few pints or at a gig most likely if the girlfriend will allow it!

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