Europa League specialists Sevilla will endeavour to march on to the last-16 of the competition when they meet Dinamo Zagreb in the second leg of their playoff tie on Thursday night.
Julen Lopetegui’s side arrive in Croatia with a healthy 3-1 lead from the first leg and aiming to keep their prospects of a domestic and European double alive.
Despite winning each of their last seven competitive fixtures in all tournaments before their journey to the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, Dinamo Zagreb were no match for their Spanish counterparts and are fighting an uphill battle to keep their Europa League run going.
After Mislav Orsic had cancelled out Ivan Rakitic’s penalty, Lucas Ocampos restored Sevilla’s lead just before the half-time whistle blew before Anthony Martial calmly slotted home his first Palanganas goal to put the tie to bed.
An all-action first half was followed by a relatively uneventful second 45, but that suited Sevilla down to the ground, and Dinamo Zagreb could not respond in league action as they played out a 0-0 draw with Lokomotiva Zagreb on Sunday.
Zeljko Kopic’s side have never been eliminated at this stage of the Europa League before but must produce nothing short of a perfect performance if they are to have a chance of advancing to the last-16 for the second season running, although their recent home form makes for pleasant reading.
Indeed, the Croatian giants have won three and drawn one of their last four competitive fixtures on home soil and have conceded just one goal in that time, but such resolve may not count for much against the La Liga title-chasers.
Sevilla coach Julen Lopetegui reacts on February 17, 2022© Reuters
Every man and his dog is familiar with Sevilla’s penchant for Europa League success at this point, and Julen Lopetegui will not allow any complacency to creep in as his side aim to finish the job at the Maksimir Stadium.
Los Palanganas would have inevitably been frustrated not to have progressed from their tightly-fought Champions League group, and there is also the small matter of the Seville derby with Real Betis to take into account this week, with their great rivals lying in wait on Sunday.
Lopetegui’s men were frustrated at the weekend, though, as Martial left the field injured and Jules Kounde was sent off in a 1-1 La Liga draw with Espanyol, who equalised through Sergi Darder after Rafa Mir’s first-half opener.
A six-point gap to Real Madrid at the top of the La Liga table is far from insurmountable, but another injury, suspensions and four draws from their last six in all competitions could yet lead to a hint of apprehension from Sevilla supporters, especially seeing as their side have failed to win any of their last four away from home.
However, Sevilla’s 3-1 win in the first leg represents their third successive triumph against Dinamo Zagreb in all tournaments, with Samir Nasri scoring the only goal as Los Palanganas won 1-0 on the Croatians’ turf during the 2016-17 Champions League group stage.