Champions League: Sevilla v Leicester

Sevilla v Leicester

Thursday February 23, 6:45am AEDT


Sevilla

For most sides, continuity is one of the fundamental building blocks of success. Winning teams take time to build, after all. But Sevilla are the exception that proves the rule: they sell their best talent every single summer – usually at a massive profit – and yet all the pieces always fall back together, as if by magic.

They lost Kévin Gameiro, Grzegorz Krychowiak and 11 (eleven!) other players before the start of this season, plus coach Unai Emery. But his replacement, the intense Jorge Sampaoli, has performed wonders, forging an exciting team on the fly and instilling real belief. The Andalusians sit third in La Liga and must be considered dark horses for a fourth consecutive continental titleafter a hat-trick of Europa League wins.

Theirs is a squad high on talent and full of familiar faces. Samir Nasri and Steven N’Zonzi have been two of their standout performers this term, while January signing Stevan Jovetić has added some spark to the attack in recent weeks. All three could start as Sampaoli’s charges look to establish a lead to take to the King Power Stadium.


Leicester

Europe has been a welcome distraction for Leicester this season, and never more than now. The Foxes are in a rut domestically: they have yet to score in the Premier League in 2017 and were dumped out of the FA Cup by League One Millwall at the weekend. With each passing week, the spectre of relegation grows stronger.

You imagine their players will relish a return to Champions League duty, having made such short work of the group stage before Christmas. Granted, theirs was not the toughest of sections and they faded towards the end, but the opening cluster of victories and clean sheets swiftly dispensed with any inferiority complex they might have been feeling ahead of their continental adventure.

Claudio Ranieri will hope that Riyad Mahrez raises his game as he did in the group matches (a bit of effort in the Premier League probably wouldn’t go amiss either) and that Jamie Vardy locates some shooting boots in Spain. But the Italian may have to do without Islam Slimani, who is nursing a groin problem.


Match Odds

It’s rare to see a side as long as 9.60 to win a match in the knockout stages, but that price is probably a fair reflection of Leicester’s form. They have been woeful at both ends of the pitch since the turn of the year and there’s little reason to think they’ll spring a surprise on Wednesday.

Sevilla are 1.42 to come out on top, which seems fair. Only Barcelona and Juventus have won as visitors to the Sánchez Pizjuán this term, and if you remove that pair and Real Madrid (all significantly better sides than Leicester) from the reckoning, the Los Blanquirrojos have won 11/12 (91.67%) of their home matches since the season began.

With that in mind, backing them with a one-goal handicap on the Asian handicap at 1.62 could be a way to squeeze a little more value out of the odds.


Over/Under 2.5 Goals

For much of the season Sevilla’s games were marked by wild scorelines, their attack making up for defensive shortcomings in thrilling fashion. But they have become a touch more circumspect of late: their last three games have yielded three clean sheets but only three goals.

Given Leicester’s woeful attacking returns this year, we won’t be expecting much of a contribution from them on the goals front. Add in the fact that four of Sevilla’s six group games stayed below the 2.5-goal line, the unders holds some appeal at 2.12.


Match Odds and Over/Under 3.5 Goals

OK, so it’s not most traditional market, but there looks to be some value in backing Sevilla to win with under 3.5 goals in the match. There could be some caginess from both sides with the second leg still to play, and while we fully expect the hosts to come away victors, their recent form in front of goal suggests a full-on blowout is unlikely.

With Leicester struggling so badly at the other end, the bet could well pay out even if the hosts plunder three goals.


To Score

With former Toulouse striker Wissam Ben Yedder going through a barren spell for the home side, Jovetić is likely to be the main man. The 27-year-old has been bright since arriving from Internazionale, scoring on debut against Real Madrid and contributing two goals and three assists in six matches since. 2.02 won’t make you rich, but he looks the best option.


Betting Strategy

BACK – Sevilla to win and under 3.5 goals at evens


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