Monchi, Sevilla's sporting director. SUR
The fight to stay at the top

The fight to stay at the top

The entrance to the Sevilla coach's room is like a revolving door

Rob Palmer, Commentator ESPN

Friday, 24 March 2023, 11:07


It's bonkers that the clubs from Spain's third and fourth largest cities are fighting to avoid finishing in La Liga's bottom three and dropping out of top-flight football. But here we are: Sevilla and Valencia are in danger of suffering the humiliation of relegation this summer as crisis grips both sides.

The panic button was hit in the boardroom of the Andalusian club this week when they sacked their second coach of the season. Jorge Sampaoli followed another established manager, Julen Lopetegui, out of the door and in came the veteran José Luis Mendilibar.

The door to the Sevilla coach's room is a revolving door. Normally, the job of managing the club from the fourth biggest city is sought after. Sevilla FC has been renowned for a solid structure, a respected director of football and passionate support.

This season, that structure has crumbled; Monchi the man who makes the decisions has made mistakes and the passionate support has turned to passionate protest.

Fans have accepted that the best players will be sold when their market value peaks, and they trusted Monchi to find the next uncut diamonds. Last summer, they made €80 million by selling Diego Carlos to Aston Villa and Jules Koundé to Barcelona.

The replacements have been weak and a team that finished fourth for the past three seasons is 14th, just two points above the relegation zone. Mendilbar has ten games to retain their top-flight status.

He's inherited a team that can play when they are in the mood, as their form in the Europa League suggests. Two of his early dates will be with Manchester United in the quarter finals of the competition.

Clearly, the players can raise their performances for the big games yet struggle with the run-of-the-mill domestic challenges. You find this at many clubs, the players will feel that they're elite performers and will be in high demand if their team is relegated.

The crunch game will come on April 16 th when they go to Valencia. I've written often about the mismanagement and polarisation within the walls of the Mestalla. Valencia are also under temporary management, have also sold off their prize assets, and they are left with a young team that is floundering.

They allowed Gonçalo Guedes to join Wolves and Carlos Soler to head to PSG for a combined total of €60 million that hasn't been reinvested into the team. Now Valencia sit third from bottom and Segunda soccer is a daunting possibility next season.

Against Atletico last weekend, only two of the starting eleven were above the age of 25, and the caretaker coach, Rubén Baraja, is fighting to avoid relegation for the first time since 1986. This is a club that has reached the Champions League final and won the title twice, in 2002 and 2004.

Elche are already doomed, but there are ten teams separated by six points in the bottom half of the table and staying in the Primera División is their sole focus between now and June.

The difference is that the other eight are used to scrapping for survival and know the script. The reality is that both Sevilla and Valencia have one foot on the trap-door and one, if not both, are in danger of falling.

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