The Round of 16 in the UEFA Europa League unfolds over the next two Thursdays, so before the action kicks off around Europe on Thursday afternoon, we thought we would preview the eight matchups of the round.
Up next is the match between Czech Republic club Slavia Prague, who welcomes Spanish club Sevilla to Czechia. The match kicks off from Sinobo Stadium in Prague on 14 March 2019 at 8:00pm GMT (4:00pm EST).
What Happened in Leg 1
Sevilla was the overwhelming favorite – both in this match up and the entire tournament – heading into leg 1. And they looked every bit the favorite from kickoff, with Wissam Ben Yedder scoring less than one minute into the match to put Slavia Prague on their heels from the very beginning.
Goals were plentiful in the first half – the first Prague equalizer in the 25th minute, another Sevilla go-ahead goal less than three minutes later, and the second Prague equalizer with about five minutes left in the half – but the second half was relatively quiet, at least on the goal scoring front, and the match ended in a 2-2 draw.
It wasn’t for a lack of effort on the side of the Spaniards. They outshot Slavia Prague nearly 3-to-1 (17 shots to six), and possessed the ball for 58% of the match. But Slavia Prague played a physical brand of football – they had 22 fouls called during the match – that disrupted Sevilla’s style of play.
What the Experts are Saying
Despite being the road team, and being behind 2-0 on away goals, Sevilla is still the favorite to advance of the two clubs, given a 70% chance of advancing by FiveThirtyEight simulations. They are also given a 68% chance of winning this leg outright, with a draw (on which Slavia Prague would advance unless it’s bigger than 2-2) a 22% possibility. The Czechs remain underdogs, but as we saw in the first match between the clubs, that may not matter.
What We’re Thinking
I personally think this match is a bit closer than those odds seem to indicate.
Sevilla goalkeeper Tomáš Vaclík, who is from the Czech Republic, almost didn’t travel and may not play because of injury. Slavia Prague has only lost once at home across all competitions this year, and can advance with a draw. And though the leagues are far apart in overall quality, Slavia Prague currently leads the Czech First League, while Sevilla has fallen to sixth in La Liga after a 2-2-6 stretch in their last 10 league matches.
Is that going to be enough for Slavia Prague to overcome Wissam Ben Yedder – who is coming of a hat trick in his last league game – and everyone else on the Sevilla side? I don’t know, but as I’ve mentioned multiple times on this site, I always root for the underdog, and Slavia Prague definitely fits the bill in that regard. I hope they can overcome the odds and pull it out.
Until next time…