It’s that time of year! The time for European glory, of clashes between giants under the floodlights of Europe’s great stadiums. Forget domestic leagues and their weekly grind, this is the Champions League, where a single goal can mean the difference between European glory and bitter obscurity. After more than two months, the Champions League returns in the form of the Round of 16. While the action starts today, the competition will not start for Borussia Dortmund until tomorrow, when Die Schwarzgelben take on Los Rojiblancos of Sevilla FC.
While BVB may feel relieved to have avoided one of Europe’s true giants, like Barcelona or Manchester City, Sevilla will be no laughing matter. They currently sit fourth in La Liga behind the three Spanish juggernauts, with only four points separating them and Real Madrid in second place. Sevilla’s success this season has been built on a solid defense masterminded by former Real Madrid and Spanish National Team manager Julen Lopetegui. Sevilla’s defense is led by its two center backs, Jules Koundé and Diego Carlos, and the captain Jesus Navas at right back, behind a midfield trio with Joan Jordan, Fernando Reges, and Ivan Rakitic. Sevilla’s top goalscorer is Youssef En-Nesyri, who has 17 goals in 33 appearances.
To say that Sevilla are on fire would be a massive understatement. They’ve gone eight consecutive games in all competitions without a defeat, and have only conceded one goal in the same stretch. By the way, that included a 2-0 victory in the Copa Del Rey against Barcelona, in which Jules Koundé did this:
Kounde’s goal vs Barcelona earlier, Upamecano who?— Jürgen (@JurgenMindset) February 10, 2021
Oh god they’re gonna destroy us aren’t they...
If there’s any solace to be taken, it’s that Sevilla’s performances in the Champions League Group Stage were mediocre. Placed in a group with Chelsea, FC Krasnodar, and Stade Rennais, Sevilla were more or less shoe-ins to make the knockout rounds. While they successfully brushed past Krasnodar and Rennes, they drew Chelsea 0-0 in London, and then got blown out 4-0 at home.
The club’s next top goalscorer, Lucas Ocampos, suffered an ankle injury against Getafe, so he will miss the first match between Sevilla and BVB. Left back Marcos Acuña is also out with an injury, while the captain Jesus Navas is a doubt to start. To the best of my knowledge, this would be Sevilla’s most likely lineup:
But that’s enough about our opponents, lets talk about Borussia Dortmund. It’s no secret that BVB have been struggling recently, having dropped points in 5 of their last 6 games in the Bundesliga. There aren’t any notable changes in terms of injuries for Borussia Dortmund. According to Ruhr Nachrichten, Thomas Meunier, Roman Burki, and Dan-Axel Zagadou are also injured, and Thorgan Hazard will likely sit despite returning to training last week. I expect the lineup to look like this:
If this lineup looks familiar, it’s because it’s almost identical to the lineup that faced Hoffenheim on Saturday. The only difference is that I swapped out Gio Reyna for Marco Reus, and moved Reus to the wing, with Julian Brandt slotting into a more central role, although I expect him to drift towards the wings, especially in the attacking third.
The key to beating Sevilla will be to be fast in transition and try to break through Sevilla’s lines with quick vertical passes. Take a look at this play from Chelsea’s 4-0 demolition of Sevilla. The Blues were able to easily break through Sevilla’s midfield with a quick pass through Sevilla’s press from Christiansen to Jorginho, who quickly turns to Kai Havertz who collects the ball and runs into the open space. As good as Ivan Rakitic is at distributing the ball, he’s not very quick and is hardly one to throw in a heavy tackle. Havertz is able to run virtually the full length of midfield, and eventually pick out Olivier Giroud who finishes the play.
BVB may be able to take advantage in similar fashion if Julian Brandt and Jude Bellingham are able to quickly progress the ball towards Haaland, who should be terrorizing Sevilla’s back line. It will be a tough ask, but I do believe that Sevilla are beatable if BVB are able to exploit their weaknesses properly.