Sevilla v Bayern Munich
Tuesday 03 April, 19:45 BST
Live on BT Sport
Evolving Sevilla in the last eight on merit
When Jose Mourinho lauded Sevilla's fine tradition in European football, he was dissembling to some extent after a painful Champions League exit for his Manchester United side, but there was also plenty of truth in that statement. Sevilla won three straight Europa League crowns, and in the Champions League they are making progress.
Last season they suffered a stinging defeat to Leicester City in the last 16, and in this campaign they are going at least a step further, reaching the quarter-finals for the first time in their history. They have reached the final of the Copa del Rey, knocking out an accomplished Atletico Madrid side in the semi-finals, so this is certainly a Sevilla side with a flair for cup competitions.
However, it feels like the ride may be about to end. Sevilla negotiated a tight tie with Manchester United largely because Mourinho chose to be passive, as he hoped United's greater individual quality would make the difference. As it turned out, Argentine maestro Ever Banega took full advantage of that passivity to take control of midfield, and Sevilla were well worth their win at Old Trafford.
Disastrously for Sevilla, Banega is suspended for this game, and they don't have anyone who can orchestrate things like him. Meanwhile, Pablo Sarabia could return after he was suspended for the dramatic 2-2 draw against Bayern on Saturday, a game that saw Barca score twice in a minute to snatch a point.
Bayern have found their mean streak at the right time
Bayern love to make a statement, and their use of Der Klassiker to trumpet their readiness to win things at home and abroad couldn't have been any more effective. They dismantled their old rivals Borussia Dortmund on Saturday with terrifying precision, punching holes in their opponents as if they were poking through wet tissue paper. The 6-0 win (5-0 up at half time) didn't remotely flatter the champions.
Jupp Heynckes' team produced an equally clear clarion call in the previous round of this competition, as they pulverised a good Besiktas team 8-1 on aggregate. Admittedly they benefited from an early red card for Besiktas defender Domagoj Vida in the first leg, but they proceeded to sweep aside their opposition in fine style.
Heynckes, plucked from retirement at the age of 72 to fight the fires left by Carlo Ancelotti's dismissal, has now won his last 11 games in the Champions League, the longest winning streak in the competition's history. Heynckes' vast experience and delicate man-management skills have allowed him to fashion Bayern into something close to the machine that won the treble at the end of his last campaign as Bayern coach. The ruthlessness is back in their game, and their squad is arguably deeper now than it was back then.
Robert Lewandowski bagged a hat-trick against Dortmund, and now has 40 goals this season for club and country. He has scored 14 times in his last 12 outings. Thomas Mueller is back to his best, and James showed his quality on Saturday with a goal and two assists. Bayern have no major injury concerns, so Heynckes has some tough calls to make.
Bayern can exploit Sevilla's defensive weaknesses
Saturday's draw with Barca underlined two things about Sevilla. One is that they can still ruffle the feathers of even the best teams at the Sanchez Pizjuan, the other is that their defence can't be trusted to hold firm. In the Champions League this term, Sevilla have conceded three goals at home to Liverpool and five away to Spartak Moscow. The Andalusians were spanked 5-2 at home by Atletico Madrid a few weeks ago, they lost 5-1 at Eibar in February, and were beaten 5-3 on home soil by their bitter rivals Betis in January.
Bayern will take advantage of these gaps in a way that Manchester United refused to, and under Henyckes they will play with attacking endeavour rather than measured caution. Even though the Bavarian giants are a skinny 1.738/11 for the win, I would still back them to take a first-leg lead.
Sevilla have played ten Champions League matches this season including the qualifying stage, and eight of those have featured three goals or more. Their defence isn't as strong as Manchester United made it look, and I'll be amazed if Bayern don't make plenty of chances.
Bayern have scored 35 goals in their last ten games, and all of their Champions League games this season have featured three goals or more.
My play here is to back a Bayern/Over 2.5 Goals double on the Betfair Sportsbook at 13/10