Sevilla hoping for perfect away day in Basel

Has a team ever lifted a European trophy after going an entire season without winning an away game in their own league?

Sevilla hoping for perfect away day in Basel

One for the anoraks, but the records suggest it has never happened — so in a season of miracles, it may be that Sevilla can achieve something unique tomorrow night against Liverpool.

Ten away defeats and nine draws is relegation form in any league.

Sevilla have also scored only 13 times away from home, on a par with Aston Villa in the Premier League, and Villa did at least manage one win. Other relegated sides such as Frosinone in Italy and Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany have won two or three.

The away team booby prize this year goes to the unfortunate Greek club, Kalloni, with only two points and three goals — but given their stature and history, Sevilla have run them close.

So the odds should favour Liverpool, and the bookies agree. Up to a point.

For Sevilla’s weird away record does not extend to cup competitions.

Sevilla had some luck with the draw in the Copa del Rey, the Spanish cup, with two ties against third division opposition. But they then had to overcome local rivals Betis, as well as Celta Vigo. They face Barcelona in the final next Sunday.

And although they lost all three away games in their Champions League group, they did win a couple on their way to tomorrow’s final, in Ukraine against Dnipro and then the big one against Athletic Bilbao last month.

Athletic’s San Mamés stadium is a tough venue, famous for its passionate crowd and intimidating atmosphere in big games. A Basque version of Anfield.

On Saturday, Sevilla were there for the last league game of the season and duly lost 3-1, their 10th defeat on the road. It was not the best preparation for their double final, with two players sent off.

But in the quarter-final, Sevilla overcame Bilbao in the most difficult circumstances, scoring twice in torrential rain after going a goal down early in the second half.

In the second leg, Bilbao fought back to level the tie but Sevilla kept their nerve in an extraordinary penalty shoot-out which featured a small skirmish in the centre circle between the two sets of players before Kevin Gameiro smashed home the winner.

Liverpool are of course renowned for their cup triumphs, especially against the odds. Their last win in this competition, in 2001 when it was still the Uefa Cup, came against Spanish opponents, 5-4 in extra-time in Dortmund against outsiders Alavés.

Back then, Sevilla had never won a European competition, and were playing in the second division. But they like Liverpool have become a very good cup side, and going for their third Europa League win in a row, there is no inferiority complex. Like Liverpool they have a history of coming out ahead in shoot-outs.

Sevilla manager Unai Emery also has a reputation for extremely thorough preparation, including individualised videos of direct opponents that are given to players an hour before a match.

Some might argue that this approach can backfire, but his record in developing players such as David Silva, Juan Mata, and Ivan Rakitic speaks for itself. He also has coped with very high player turnover, both at Sevilla and at Valencia.

At both clubs he has had to contend with continuous financial pressure. Sevilla cannot compete with big clubs for players, and ‘big’ in this case includes even the minnows of the Premier League.

“We can’t be a super-top team because of our budget,” he has said. “But if you can grow, it’s very gratifying. And joy comes from the hope, the dream, of winning a title.”

Psychologically, Sevilla could even have a slight edge, having held Basel on the way to this final while Liverpool lost 1-0 in the Champions League group stage last season. Spanish teams also have an astonishing 90% win rate against other countries in the last 50 knockout ties: La Liga is now much more competitive than it was five years ago.

But Liverpool are mentally better equipped to win a European competition than they were a year or two ago, as they showed in beating Villarreal. This could go to the wire.

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