In an ideal world, Sevilla wouldn’t have been taken to extra time and penalties by Athletic Bilbao on Thursday. Their interest in La Liga already appears to be waning and Deportivo La Coruña were great value to beat them in any case. Alas, we’re left with a best price of 11/2 rather than the opening price of 15/2, but it’s a wager still worth having.
If Unai Emery’s men have thrown in the towel on the chase for fourth place, it’s entirely understandable. Last season, they were engaged in a tense battle with Valencia, one they eventually lost. It didn’t prevent them becoming the fifth Spanish club to qualify for the Champions League with victory over Dnipro on a memorable night in Warsaw, but their Basque coach probably recalls the physical toll of the run-in only too well.
At this stage 12 months ago, Sevilla were two points behind Los Che. Right now, the gap to fourth-placed Villarreal is 12 points and this time the Andalusians also have a Copa del Rey final against Barcelona at the Vicente Calderon to consider. With a Sunday-Wednesday-Sunday schedule to negotiate before the semi-final first leg, sacrifices are surely going to be made.
That’s not to say the two points of potential lost profit don’t come with a reward. The rigours of that epic tussle against Athletic have surely cemented the logical priorities in terms of the recovery process in Emery’s mind. With games against Sporting Gijon and Real Betis to follow, this has to be the game Sevilla care least about.
If we assume the adrenaline of their shoot-out victory over the Basques encroached well into the early hours of Friday morning, and judging by various posts from players on Twitter and Instagram it did, then you can conclude that Sevilla are well short of the standard 72-hour turnaround required to get their bodies back to a normal state.
My guess is that the Depor game will see wholesale changes and Emery will start his preparations for Shakhtar Donetsk at Sporting Gijon in midweek, where his team have an obligation to be competitive for the other teams embroiled in the relegation battle, and then step things up with gradual intensity for the local derby against Betis, where the obligation is to the fans.
I won’t lie. Deportivo have been infuriating since the winter break and they’ve cost me money by posting respectable shot data in the face of plummeting form but this could be a wonderful opportunity for them to recoup the deficit in one fell swoop. The Galicians might have only won one of their 16 matches since Christmas but my 16-match ratings make the away win around 3/1.
More than anything, their biggest problem has been an ability to score a killer second goal. On six different occasions in 2016, they’ve broken the deadlock only to be pegged back to 1-1. Let’s take a chance on this being different and indulge ourselves with a bet on Deportivo to win 2-0 at 45/1. The respective shot data would suggest it’s more like a 28/1 shot.
Click here for more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system