Three Sevilla danger men Man United need to watch out for

Alex Broun 22:52 20/02/2018
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Manchester United meet Sevilla in a tricky Round of 16 Champions League tie on Wednesday night.

United’s form has been patchy of late with losses to Newcastle and Tottenham but they received a confidence boost on Saturday with a comfortable 2-0 away win over Huddersfield in the FA Cup.

Facing them at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium are a Sevilla side who are just as up-and-down as their Premier League counterparts.

Sevilla were strongly condemned across the globe for their sudden axing of coach Eduardo Berizzo a week after returning from cancer surgery in December, with new coach Italian Vincenzo Montella struggling to impose his ideas on the playing group.

After battling 1-1 draws against Getafe and Leganes, in La Liga and the Copa del Rey respectively, they were then thrashed 5-1 by Eibar in La Liga in early February and their season hung by a thread.

But somehow they found form in their last three games, defeating Leganes 2-0 to reach the final of the Copa del Rey (where they will face Barcelona) and backing that up with wins in the league over Las Palmas and Girona.

Their home form is certainly impressive with just the one loss (to Real Betis 5-3) this season and their home ground can be among one of the most intimidating on the globe for visiting sides.

If anyone can testify to how dangerous Sevilla are at home it’s Liverpool, who led 3-0 in their Champions League group stage clash earlier this season before Los Rojiblancos came roaring back to level 3-3 and almost snatch an incredible win at the end.

So it’s understandable if United go into the tie with a degree of trepidation.

Here are three Sevilla players the Red Devils will need to keep an eye on Wednesday night.

Franco Vazquez celebrates after scoring during the Copa del Rey semi-final.

Franco Vazquez celebrates after scoring during the Copa del Rey semi-final.

Franco Vazquez

The 28-year-old Argentine, who cryptically has played two matches for Italy, has benefited from Montella’s relatively consistent selection of Pablo Sarabia, himself and Joaquin Correa behind Luis Muriel up front.

This has allowed an understanding to develop between them in the final third which wasn’t possible during Berizzo’s regular rotations earlier in the campaign.

Strong in the air, the 1.86m attacking midfielder also has a good eye for a through-ball as seen against Las Palmas where he set up the winning score. He also has his own goal scoring instincts netting the decisive goal against Leganes in the second leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final.

Steven N'Zonzi (r) in action against Espanyol.

Steven N’Zonzi (r) in action against Espanyol.

Steven N’Zonzi

The former Blackburn Rovers and Stoke defensive midfielder has flourished under Montella, becoming a lynch pin of Sevilla’s game plan.

He has started all of Sevilla’s matches in 2018, twelve in all, using his 1.96m frame to considerable effect in the middle of the park winning an average of five aerial duels per game.

His distribution has also been excellent with a passing success rate of over 80% in all but one of those matches, the 5-1 loss to Eibar where he averaged just 69.2%.

The 29-year-old France international will be intent on snuffing out any attacking moves by United with a sharp interception or tackle, and then quickly launching a counter attack with a telling pass.

Wissam Ben Yedder

The 27-year-old French striker has easily been Sevilla’s most dangerous attacking player in the Champions League with six goals in six games, including three against Liverpool over two matches and a hat-trick against Maribor.

But this doesn’t mean he will automatically start against the Red Devils.

There was considerable tension between the coach and striker in January with Montella declaring that Ben Yedder was no longer a certain starter and would have to fight for his place.

This led the former Toulouse man to be rumoured to be searching for a move away from Los Rojiblancos with Dortmund named as a likely destination.

Instead Montella has preferred Luis Muriel up front, a player who he previously coached at Sampdoria, along with the impressive Joaquin Correa, with the Italian tasked with getting more out of a pair of players who cost Sevilla a combined €35 million.

With Sarabia and Correa stretching the width on the flanks and Muriel making runs into the inside channels – it’s a tactic that has worked well for Sevilla.

The only thing missing is a more clinical touch once they reach the final third and this is what Ben Yedder provides.

He has netted 17 goals this season and provided two assists in 30 games across all competitions.

But with Correa doubtful with a hamstring injury, Muriel and Ben Yedder may both start, or Montella may choose to give Nolito a rare start on the left with one of the strikers up front.

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