• Sevilla faces mission improbable in Super Cup

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    Sevilla’s players react after Barcelona’s forward Munir El Haddadi scored a goal during the first leg of the Spanish Supercup football match between Sevilla FC and FC Barcelona at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Sevilla on Monday. AFP PHOTO

    Sevilla’s players react after Barcelona’s forward Munir El Haddadi scored a goal during the first leg of the Spanish Supercup football match between Sevilla FC and FC Barcelona at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Sevilla on Monday. AFP PHOTO

    MADRID: Sevilla have a mountain to climb in the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) if they are to overcome Barcelona.

    Goals from Luis Suarez and Munir El Haddadi earned last year’s Liga and Copa del Rey winners a 2-0 victory in Andalusia on Sunday and they have one hand on the trophy.

    Jorge Sampaoli’s men impressed in the first half but struggled to create many clear chances and now find themselves in an extremely tough position going into the return fixture at the Camp Nou.

    The Argentine coach believes playing against Real Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup last Tuesday harmed his side’s chances of victory in this competition.

    “We came from 120 minutes against Real Madrid and had several casualties. The calendar has hurt us a bit and we’re feeling the weight of fatigue,” he explained after the defeat. “Hopefully we will play a more dignified role (in the return leg).”

    Sevilla goalkeeper Sergio Rico, who was his side’s outstanding player, agreed with his coach.

    “We suffered in the second half because we were worn down after the other final,” Rico said. “I hope we win the next one. It’s home and away, and we will go there with all the hope in the world to put in a good performance and turn things around. All is not lost.”

    Michael Krohn-Dehli and Benoit Tremoulinas are still out injured, while captain Vicente Iborra should return after being rested.

    Barcelona, meanwhile, will be without captain Andres Iniesta and defender Jeremy Mathieu, who injured their knee and hamstring respectively during Sunday’s clash.

    New signings Denis Suarez and Lucas Digne were their replacements from the bench on the night and having both impressed are likely to start on Wednesday.

    Changes expected
    With the return just three days after the first match, it would be no surprise to see the coaches shuffle their packs.

    Neymar is still absent, at the Olympic Games, and Luis Enrique must decide if he will opt for Arda Turan to replace him again, or if Munir is the better option, while Andre Gomes and Samuel Umtiti will be hoping to make their official debuts.

    “The players who started played very well and so did those who came on. We’re going to need all the players because we will be playing every three days,” said the coach.

    “Some people focus on the trees but I look at the forest. These players have shown over the years how much quality they have. But we are just starting the season and playing for our first trophy so we have to look after them.

    “We are all very excited about this chance to win the Spanish Super Cup, it’s the first big trophy of the season. And if you want to win titles, you need to be ambitious.”

    Enrique was impressed by Sevilla’s performance at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan, even though the scoreline looked comfortable for his team.

    “It might be a good result, but it’s not a definitive one,” he added. “Every coach tries to implement his own style, and I like Sampaoli’s a lot. He wants to win by playing the ball, by controlling it and by playing attacking football.”

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