Barcelona and Real Madrid quite rightly head the betting in the Champions League outright but one of the other two La Liga representatives in this season’s competition has very sound claims of their own and Sevilla must be backed at a fraction over even money on Tuesday.
Finishing third behind the ‘Big Two’ in Spain last season was no disgrace whatsoever for Sevilla but they are good enough to upset any side in the Champions League in a one-off fixture and this represents their best opportunity to claim some silverware.
Sevilla have no chance of getting the better of Barca or Real over a 38 game campaign but I regard them as dangerous outsiders for the biggest prize of all and the gulf in class between Manolo Jimenez’s side and Tuesday opponents, Rangers is sizeable.
Drawn with the Scottish club in addition to newcomers Unirea Urziceni and German also-rans Stuttgart, I’m sure Jimenez could hardly believe his luck and the men from the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán should have no trouble whatsoever progressing.
I have already tipped them to do so in style by topping Group G but Brazilian pairing of Luis Fabiano and Renato gave them the perfect start on home soil a fortnight ago against the Romanians, Sevilla triumphing 2-0, and I can’t help but get stuck into them again to prevail inside 90 minutes at Ibrox. >
Since an opening night defeat at the hands of Valencia, when the visitors had Frederic Kanoute sent off before half time, Sevilla have taken maximum points from their last four outings in the Spanish top flight and a 4-0 win at Athletico Bilbao on the weekend sees them hot on the heels of their title rivals.
Sevilla have quality throughout, Álvaro Negredo, in particular, looks like an excellent addition to the squad, and Walter Smith will have enormous difficulty preparing his side for the visit of the 2006 and 2007 Uefa Cup winners.
Rangers themselves opened with an excellent point in Germany, Madjid Bougherra proving the hero with a late strike in the 1-1 draw, but the SPL champions’ overall form must be concerning Smith and it is now three matches since they found the net domestically.
That level of ineptness would be a worry for any side but the Ibrox chief must be anxious that his strikers failed to fire against the far from intimidating trio of Motherwell, Kilmarnock and Aberdeen and it’s very hard to see them outscoring a side with Sevilla’s firepower. >
While all the 2.38 has disappeared, Sky Bet must have taken a hit when they went up with price, the 2.05 with Expekt still appeals and Fabiano might just fill his boots. An early goal for the away side would send confidence levels soaring once more and Rangers, despite the guaranteed backing of a hostile home support, could be up against it early on.