Europa League round of 16, August 06 2020
Sevilla progressed to the quarter finals of the Europa League after easing past Roma. The five-time winners will next meet Wolves, after goals from Sergio Reguilón and Youssef En-Nesyri rewarded their dominance against Roma, who were redueced to 10 men in injury time when Gianluca Mancini was given a red card when the Video Assistant Referee judged him to have elbowed Luuk de Jong. "We're happy, the team played well against a very good opponent," said Sevilla's manager Julen Lopetegui. "We knew about how difficult it would be and we prepared well. With just two full training sessions the team has shown strength, character, and mentality. One of the things I can be proudest of is the synergy and the support of the whole group. The team competed and believed, and now we have to recover and think about the next one."
15 / 7
SHOTS / ON TARGET
7 / 1
Passes / Accurate
11 / 2 / 0
Fouls / Yellow / Red
21 / 2 / 0
Sevilla manager Julen Lopetegui set his side up in a 4-3-3 formation in which Lucas Ocampo and Suso, either side of Youssef En-Nesyri, formed their front three. Roma defended with a 5-2-3.
Roma sought to press Sevilla high up the pitch, and they used their front three to close down Sevilla’s two central defenders and goalkeeper while trying to occupy Fernando. A two-on-two therefore existed in central midfield, between Bryan Cristante and Amadou Diawara, and Éver Banega and Joan Jordán. Sevilla tested Roma's wing-backs and wider centre-backs by pushing their wide attackers into the half spaces to receive possession. Roma’s ball-side wing-back usually closed down Sevilla's full-back, leaving Sevilla's winger in the hands of the relevant centre-back because there were no free central midfielders to move across. The outside centre-back was therefore tested over whether to follow the winger into the half-space and risk leaving spaces behind, or whether to hold his position and allow his opponent to freely receive and turn.
In the first half Sevilla created their best opportunities in the spaces behind Roma's wing-backs and outside centre-backs, and accessed these spaces by playing around the outside. They had more success when combining a forward pass outside one of Roma's centre-backs or wing-backs with a diagonal run from inside by either the wide attacker, if he had started in a narrow position, or by the centre-forward.
It was also common to see Sevilla's full-backs and wingers combining via wall passes around the opposing wing-back, or via their full-back making third-man overlapping or underlapping runs. Roma’s outside centre-backs were vulnerable in those situations, which was evident in Sevilla’s opening goal when Gianluca Mancini was completely removed from his position by Ocampos, creating space for Sergio Reguilón to surge inside and finish.
With the wide areas their most straightforward route to goal, Sevilla often positioned Fernando as a false centre-back. Doing so increased the space between their two centre-backs and gave more freedom to Jesús Navas and Reguilon to advance.
Given Roma’s out-of-possession shape they often struggled with the three-on-two underload that existed in central midfield. When Edin Dzeko moved out to press Sevilla's goalkeeper, Yassine Bounou, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Nicolò Zaniolo still attempted to occupy the two centre-backs, but in Dzeko's absence Roma used one of their central midfielders to push up and occupy Fernando. Sevilla therefore had a free central midfielder in a more advanced position, contributing to them repeatedly evading Roma’s press.
Roma also sought to use Mkhitaryan to screen passes into their midfield in order to limit penetrations, but this afforded Sevilla's defenders time to play accurate longer balls and Sevilla's midfielders, especially Éver Banega, were active in finding spaces. Their wide attackers also withdrew to add further numbers in midfield, increasing the Italian side's problems.
Sevilla looked threatening on the counter-attack, as their second goal demonstrated. They had regularly looked to counter, and on this occasion were helped by Bounou’s quick distribution from goal.
Paulo Fonseca set Roma up in a 3-4-2-1 formation, and they encountered opponents using a 4-1-4-1. Sevilla used their front three to close down Roma's three centre-backs; their ball-side full-back pressed the relevant wing-back, and Éver Banega and Joan Jordan picked up Bryan Cristante and Amadou Diawara in central midfield.
Roma sought to use their attacking midfielders in narrow positions to create a four-on-three central overload. Cristante and Amadou were the deeper of the four, behind Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Nicolò Zaniolo, who were operating beyond Sevilla's midfield. They also attempted to link play between their attacking three to combine and create chances; these players' made movements in the opposite direction to disrupt Sevilla’s defensive line, and to create spaces to penetrate.
Roma used two main strategies with their movements in attack. One involved advancing possession centrally, and the other advancing it in wide areas. Both began with Edin Dzeko withdrawing towards the ball when it was either with a wider centre-back or a defensive midfielder; when Dzeko dropped, Mkhitaryan or Zaniolo moved beyond him so that he could play the ball around the corner for them to run on to. The other method took the attacking midfielder holding a slightly deeper position for Dzeko to set the ball to, before it was transferred to the advancing wing-back. Sevilla tried to overcome that central underload by keeping Lucas Ocampos and Suso in narrower positions so that they could pick up an opposing midfielder and create a four-on-four in there.
Sevilla's back four defended the spaces in behind extremely well, and was not easily manipulated by Roma’s combinations and movements. Roma only registered one shot on target, and the few chances they created largely came in scrappy circumstances after mistimed clearances or from second balls and turnovers close to goal, rather than from well-crafted attacks.
Roma’s play before they reached the final third was reasonably good, but their movements in behind were too infrequent, and their penetrative passes lacked quality. Mkhitaryan posed a threat in the left half-space and made runs in between Sevilla’s right-back and right-sided central defender when the ball travelled wide, leading to some promising opportunities for Roma, but their final ball repeatedly undermined them.
The introductions of Lorenzo Pellegrini in midfield and Carles Pérez in attack led to an increased threat because they proved willing to make more frequent runs beyond their opponents. Sevilla, however, were comfortable at 2-0.
Author: Tony Hodson