SEVILLE, Spain: Sevilla have a golden opportunity to seal their return to the Champions League last 16 for the first time in seven years when a Juventus side lacking firepower visits the Sanchez Pizjuan on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).
Despite winning three consecutive Europa League titles, Sevilla have struggled to take the step up to Europe’s premier club competition in recent years, missing out on the last 16 to Juventus and Manchester City last season.
However, a repeat of their win over the Italian champions at the fortress Sanchez Pizjuan 11 months ago would seal Sevilla’s place in the last 16 as group winners.
Three wins following a 0-0 draw in Turin on matchday one means even a point would be enough to seal qualification, but Sevilla boss Jorge Sampaoli insists Sevilla will start with far more attacking intent than in their last meeting against Juventus.
“We neutralized them but we didn’t attack. The idea is to change that because if we restrict ourselves to neutralizing them then at some point I am sure Juve will score against us,” said Sampaoli on Monday.
“The idea will be different and we will see if what we propose is enough to give us the victory.”
Sampaoli will have the luxury of welcoming back a host of first-team regulars he rested for Saturday’s last gasp 3-2 win at Deportivo la Coruna.
Spanish international Vitolo, Adil Rami and Franco Vazquez are set to return with the only doubt concerning Samir Nasri’s fitness.
The French playmaker trained on Monday despite carrying a hamstring injury.
“He will have a fitness test at six (on Tuesday) and if he is fit he will play,” added Sampaoli.
Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri has far more injury concerns as 90-million euro striker Gonzalo Higuain was left back in Italy due to a left thigh injury suffered in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Pescara.
With Higuain’s fellow Argentine international teammate Paulo Dybala also sidelined, 16-year-old Moise Kean is one of only two strikers included in Allegri’s 20-man squad.
“In Dybala and Higuain, we have a couple of important forward players missing, but I’m confident in the qualities of the rest of the squad to step up in their place,” said Allegri.
The visitors also have problems at the back as Medhi Benatia and Andrea Barzagli also miss, whilst Allegri confirmed Giorgio Chiellini isn’t fit enough to start.
Juventus were expected to launch a significant challenge to win the Champions League this season after five consecutive Serie A titles and a summer splurge in the transfer market.
However, home draws to Sevilla and Lyon mean the two-time European champions need to win in Spain to guarantee their place in the last 16.
Allegri’s men do though have the insurance policy of a home game against the pointless Dinamo Zagreb in two weeks’ time should they fail to join Barcelona as they only visiting side to win at the Sanchez Pizjuan so far this season.
“We need three points from the last two matches but we don’t want to have to wait until the final fixture to get them; we’re here to win and we want the job completed tomorrow night,” added Allegri.