Former Sevilla manager Unai Emery believes the Andalusians are the favourites but Juventus have the winners in their team like Angel Di Maria. The Aston Villa boss previewed the upcoming Europa League semi-final between the Bianconeri and Sevilla for La Gazzetta dello Sport and outlined the differences between the two sides, revealing how best to approach the competition, and why he was able to win it three times in Seville:
What kind of semifinal do you imagine between Juventus and Sevilla?
“It’s like a great final. And I say this with the utmost respect for Mourinho’s Roma and Xabi Alonso’s Leverkusen. I am convinced that whoever gets the better of the Bianconeri and the Andalusians, then in Budapest will be favored to win the trophy. Juve because of the quality of the squad and Sevilla because of the champion mentality they have in this competition.”
Do Juve’s big names or Sevilla’s feeling for the Europa League matter more at this point?
“I’m rooting for Sevilla. However, if Allegri’s big players are focused on this Cup, Juventus will start with a slight advantage. The Bianconeri are on the upswing and have regained their 15-point penalty in the league. And if I remember correctly, they have not won an international trophy since the 1990s. Allegri’s team has a good chance, though….”
“Juve will have to have a great deal of respect for Sevilla for the entire 180 minutes. With the new coach, Mendilibar, they have picked themselves up and have experienced players. They did not eliminate Manchester United in the quarter-finals by accident. Playing at the Sanchez Pizjuan is tough for everyone and it will be tough for Juve in the return. There is a unique atmosphere in Seville.”
What is the secret to winning the Europa League?
“Consider it and face it as a 100 percent priority, not as a minor league cup. And Sevilla, from the club to the fans, live it that way. They are aware that they cannot compete for the Champions League with Real Madrid and so they live the Europa League as if it were the World Cup. And in the end this spirit, which I also learned there, makes the difference.”
What is left of his Sevilla?
“President Castro and D.S. Monchi. And then there are Jesus Navas and Rakitic, who returned to Sevilla after their triumphs with City and Barcelona. Of the current team, I also really like Fernando.”
Who can be Juve’s decisive man?
“Di Maria, a born winner. In the PSG days I won 7 trophies together with Angel and I remember a final that was decided by one of his goals. He is a champion and in these in-or-out challenges it is a nice advantage to have him on your side. Di Maria has won everywhere.”
At PSG you also coached Rabiot, Allegri’s favorite.
“I am not surprised, he is a winner. Vlahovic I have not coached, but I still think he is one of the best strikers among the Under 25s.”
Would you advise Rabiot and Vlahovic on a future in the Premier?
“No comment. Those are personal choices.”
Who do you prefer between Allegri and Mourinho?
“Impossible to choose: they are top coaches. But watch out for Xabi Alonso: at Leverkusen he is showing he has the stuff.”
Juve have set their sights on Pau Torres, your pupil at Villarreal….
“He is a magnificent player and an extraordinary person.”
You were close to Napoli in the past: did the Scudetto surprise you?
“No, because it is the consequence of good decisions made by the club in the sporting sphere in recent years. Added to all this was the talent and hard work of Spalletti and his staff. I admire Luciano a lot. As a football fan this success of Napoli, besides being deserved, is good news.”