“Balls to Isco”, Julen Lopetegui repeated over and over again in the final stretch of Sevilla’s match against Espanyol, where a long-suffering victory for the Andalusian team (2-3) allowed the Basque coach to stay on the bench. A phrase that sounded desperate but that reveals the new identity that the coach wants to give his team. A group led around Isco to win in Copenhagen the easiest rival, a priori, from Group G (21:00, Movistar).
Isco completed his best game as a Sevilla footballer in Barcelona. For example, he was the player on his team who made the most passes (31) and also the one who made the most crosses into the box (3). The delivery of him in the final stretch of the clash, with Sevilla one less due to the expulsion of Lamela, also called a lot of attention to the Andalusian team’s technicians. “Starting from Isco, Lopetegui is trying to build a new team,” they review from within the entity. Isco not only arrived at Sevilla because he lowered his salary expectations a lot, but also because Lopetegui insisted on signing him to a Monchi who ruled out his arrival at the beginning of the summer. The sports director considered the player’s monetary requests unattainable.
The coach also tactically modified Sevilla to fit Isco into a new position. He sent Lamela and En-Nesyri to the flanks and gave the man from Malaga the entire center. In that position he moved with absolute freedom to manage the team’s game. Not only that, the coach shaped the relief in the leadership leaving referents like Jesús Navas or Rakitic on the bench. Now the boss is the man from Malaga. Isco completed 100 minutes of the game against Espanyol. This is not a minor fact. The last time he played a full game was with Madrid on April 18, 2021, in a Madrid clash against Getafe at the Coliseum that ended in a goalless draw. Zidane was still the coach of the Madrid team. Last year, Isco did not complete an entire game under the command of Carlo Ancelotti in the League, the Cup or the Champions League. The footballer’s physical improvement since he arrived last August is evident. Isco, who has played in the Champions League with Valencia, Málaga, Madrid and Sevilla, will play his 74th game in the competition.
While Lopetegui tries to sow in a minefield with Isco as a reference, doubts about his continuity continued to surface in the trip to Danish lands, where Sevilla needs to win to continue maintaining qualification aspirations for the round of 16 after 0-4 against the City. “Julen is the coach of Sevilla, without further ado”, answered the president José Castro when he was questioned about the future of the coach. “What I notice in the group of players is a lot of enthusiasm for playing a competition that has cost us a lot to get to. I am not waiting for messages or double messages. Only that my team, which I am sure will grow, play a good game. Anything that doesn’t help me with my work, I absolutely throw away”, explained Lopetegui himself at the press conference prior to the crash.
Copenhagen comes from losing on the first day of the group against Dortmund (3-0). Sevilla are favorites to win, but the Danish team’s field is not easy to conquer. For example, Copenhagen did not concede a goal at home in the three games they played the last time they played in the group stage. It was in the 2016-17 academic year and they defeated Bruges 4-0 and tied at zero goals with Leicester (who then eliminated Sevilla in the round of 16) and Porto.