When winning last season’s Europa League earned Sevilla a spot in this season’s Champions League, the joke went that they would finish third in their Champions League group just so that they could have the chance to defend their Europa League crown.
As we all now know, that is exactly how Sevilla’s Champions League adventure panned out, as they finished behind Manchester City and Juventus, but ahead of Borussia Monchengladbach, to return to their favourite competition.
Sevilla had never won a continental competition in their first century of existence. The Andalusian club celebrated its centenary in October 2005 and won the UEFA Cup later that season. The club followed that triumph up by retaining the trophy the following year, while they then won the 2013-14 and 2014-15 editions of the Europa League under Unai Emery.
Back in the season of 2007-08, Sevilla also had the opportunity to win a third successive Europa League title, or a UEFA Cup as the tournament was named back then, but they reached the Last 16 of the Champions League rather than finish third in their group and weren’t, therefore, afforded the right to defend their position as kings of Europe’s secondary competition. This season, though, it seems destiny is on their side. The road to the Basel final has been marked out for Sevilla in large neon lettering since September and they are right on track.
Their 2-2 draw in Ukraine last week at the Arena Lviv has put them in a very strong position ahead of this Thursday’s return leg in Seville. If Shakhtar were to have any chance in this tie then they really needed to win the first leg, rather than rely on getting a result in Andalusia.
Sevilla have lost just five times at home in the past year and the atmosphere at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan is as intimidating as it gets in European competition. Add to that the fact that Sevilla have never lost to a Ukrainian side, having won four times and drawn twice, including their win over Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in last season’s final, and it is hard to envisage anything but another European final for Unai Emery’s men.
The odds at the start of the season for Sevilla to win this season’s Europa League, a tournament they weren’t even in, were long. Yet the way they progressed in the last round showed that it is their destiny to become the first team to win three consecutive editions of a UEFA tournament since Bayern Munich’s three straight European Champion Clubs' Cup in the 1970s. They played Athletic Club at home in that round and actually suffered one of their five defeats in the past year on the night. The 2-1 win for the Bilbao side took the match to penalties and Sevilla won that lottery to progress.
Of their other four penalty shoot-out wins in European competition, Sevilla have gone on to win the competition on three occasions. Sevilla certainly have the talent to win this tournament again, while destiny also seems to be giving them an extra push.