Sevilla coach Unai Emery says his side’s much better La Liga form will not count for anything in Thursday’s Europa League semifinal first leg at home to Valencia.
Emery’s side have won 12 of their last 15 games in all competitions, and are 14 points ahead of Los Che in the Primera Division, while also being unbeaten in the last 13 clashes between the sides at the Estadio Sanchez Pizjuan.
But the Rojiblancos boss told his prematch news conference that the form book went out the window when you got to this stage of European competition.
“The tie is 50/50 and there are reasons to say that,” Emery said. “La Liga has nothing to do with this competition. It will be a very difficult tie against a good Valencia side. They are a dynamic team with good individuals, lots of pace and a history in Europe. The only thing that we have to focus on is this match. The final in Turin is a long way away. We have to stay in the moment.”
Emery suggested his own experience as Valencia coach from 2008 to 2012 was not necessarily an advantage ahead of the game.
“I was there for four years, and that made me a better person and a better coach, but I am now 100 percent Sevilla,” he said. “We know Valencia, but the fact I know some of the players I coached is not an advantage for us. I expect the best from Valencia -- they are a good team with good players.”
Sevilla’s experiences in winning the competition in 2006 and 2007 meant everyone around the club treated it as hugely important, the Basque coach said.
“We have a big responsibility because this competition has given a lot to Sevilla,” he said. “We always remember the first match of this competition against Mladost in August, and when I saw 4,000 Sevilla fans in Estoril [for a group stage game] I knew exactly what this competition means for Sevilla.”
Valencia are currently eighth in the Primera Division, after a season at Mestalla marked by inconsistency on the pitch and turmoil and controversy off it. Los Che coach Juan Antonio Pizzi admitted that European progress -- including turning over a 3-0 first leg deficit in the quarterfinals against Basel -- had been an extra motivation for his side.
“It is the biggest-ever match for many of us, me included,” Pizzi said. “The dream of winning the trophy is pulling us along. We must play a good game to try and win it. We are up against a very competitive Sevilla team, they have very good players and a great coach. Although it will be difficult for us, the media are making Sevilla favourites. Let's see if we can reach the final. But we expect the tie to be decided in Mestalla.”