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Leagues: La Liga

Sampaoli wants ‘desire, passion’ from Sevilla

Turin (Italy) (AFP) – Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli wants “desire and passion” from his players as the Europa League champions look to kickstart their Champions League campaign by ending Juventus’ impressive home record in Europe Wednesday.

“We have to go out and play with a lot of desire and passion because we’re facing a team that has the potential to win the competition,” Sampaoli told media at Juventus Stadium on Tuesday.

“I think they can win it. Because they have a great foundation of experienced players who have been at the club for many years, and they’ve recently added several top quality players.”

Juventus, beaten finalists in 2015, face Sevilla in the group stages for the second successive year — and will be hoping for a repeat of those results, give or take a tweak or two.

The Serie A champions, defending a 17-match unbeaten run at home in UEFA competition, had Alvaro Morata and Simone Zaza to thank for the goals in a 2-0 win over Sevilla a year ago.

On the return leg, ex-Juve striker Fernando Llorente’s 65th minute winner was enough to secure victory for the Spaniards, who eventually finished third in the group to drop into the Europa League.

It was a bittersweet defeat as Sevilla went on to win their third consecutive Europa League triumph under former coach Unai Emery.

But over the summer, both clubs underwent several changes that, on paper, leave Juventus as the big favourites on Wednesday.

While Emery took over Paris Saint Germain, Juventus went on a spending spree that, with the notable acquisitions of Gonzalo Higuain and Miralem Pjanic, has underlined their Champions League final credentials.

On Higuain alone, Juve spent an Italian record of 90 million euros ($100 million). Sevilla spent 60m euros in total over the summer transfer period.

“Thankfully, football is a team game,” added Sampaoli, a 56-year-old Argentinian who joined Sevilla in the summer after four successful years as coach of Chile.

“If it was a one-man game, it would be advantage Juventus on that score.”

Higuain, who hit a new Serie A record of 36 goals for former side Napoli last season, was bought specifically to add potency to Juve’s attack in key Serie A games and in Europe. 

Sevilla midfielder Franco Vazquez says Higuain is not the only danger, with Argentinian striker Paulo Dybala expected to work his magic up front for the hosts.

“He (Dybala) and indeed a lot of their players can make the difference in the final third of the pitch,” said Vazquez.

“But we’ll be trying to mark Higuain as much as possible.”

But he said Sevilla won’t be cowed by Juve’s big-name stars.

Asked if he would settle for a draw, he said: “We’ve come to play our game, to attack, play in their half as much as possible, and ultimately to try and win.

“Juventus are a strong side, but we’re used to playing against strong sides in Spain and I think we’ve shown what we’re capable of.”

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