The odds are stacked against Sevilla for this Copa del Rey final, just four days after their rousing Europa League final turnaround against Liverpool. Playing Barcelona is difficult enough at the best of times, but giving them a rest advantage might be considered the stuff of nightmares - and that’s before you take into account the special emotions attached to that showpiece occasion in Switzerland.
Unai Emery’s men didn’t arrive back in Seville until 5.10am on Thursday morning, with several players still dressed in their kit as they disembarked the plane. But let’s not get too carried away with minor details that embellish the obvious argument that circumstances favour the Blaugrana. That particular school of thought is already more than adequately factored into the prices.
Instead, there’s a counter-argument to say Sevilla don’t need rest. They don’t need time to prepare. They have one match of an already-memorable season remaining and will be parading on an open-top bus around the city on Monday whatever happens. They might be at a disadvantage physically, but mentally the conditions couldn’t be better. There’s nothing to lose.
If somebody could promise you now that the Rojiblancos will turn up and do themselves justice at the Vicente Calderon, then you wouldn’t think twice about laying Luis Enrique’s men at 3/10 - or at least you shouldn’t. The two teams have played each other three times already this season with one win apiece and one draw over 90 minutes, aggregate score 7-7.
Open an account with Betfair and when you bet £10, you will get £30!
When Sevilla edged out the champions at the Sanchez Pizjuan back in October, it put a stop to one of Spanish football’s cruellest statistics - it was the first time in 21 attempts that Emery had beaten the Catalan giants. Prior to that, the quirk had gained credence and was being peddled as though beating Barca was some sort of routine event.
It was particularly cruel because the Basque coach is one of the most astute tacticians around and he had bloodied Barca’s nose several times more than most other managers during the course of that sample. Indeed, during the Pep Guardiola era, when ideas of how to stop Barca were very sparse, Emery - then in charge of Valencia - masterminded interval leads on three separate occasions.
He is a manager you can hang your hat on. If there’s a particular secret to preventing this Barca side from finding full flow, Emery’s probably not a million miles away from knowing it, while Sevilla, in their current state of euphoria might well be capable of executing it. So take the 31/5 available on the draw and back it up with a bet on the 1-1 correct score at 13/1.
The two sides were barely separable when exchanging 2-1 home wins in La Liga, yet draws are disasters for Barcelona in that competition. In the final of a knockout competition, they are much more likely to bide their time and show a greater degree of patience, always remaining confident that they can get the job done in extra time.
Click here for more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system