Another four months worth of fixtures completed, and bar an inconsistent March, I think we can be pleased with what we have done this year. We have seen a progression in the Europa League, a semi-final spot in the Copa Del Rey and we currently sit 5th in the league.
We started December with a 5-2 win over Marbella in our second leg of the Copa del Rey having won leg one 6-0. After the comfortable aggregate victory, we triumphed over Alavés with Éver Banega bagging a brace in the 2-0 win. Another 2-0 win away from home against Sparta Praha saw us into the Europa League First Knockout Round, ending the group in second behind AS Saint-Étienne.
Our good start to the month then came to an end as we dropped points against Leganés before a shocking performance against Valencia, losing 3-0. We bounced back from that poor defeat as we beat Cádiz in the Copa del Rey before possibly my biggest victory in my career so far.
Two goals in the final ten minutes saw us victorious over quite possibly the biggest team in world football. Beating a team with the quality of Real Madrid was massive for us and it gives us a true indication of what we can achieve when we perform at our highest level.
That result kicked off a really strong month for us, losing just once in eight games as Real Madrid got their revenge in the Copa del Rey with a 91st minute Isco winner. Munir grabbed us a last second equaliser against Cádiz in our second leg of the Copa del Rey.
Alejandro Pozo grabbed a brace in our win over Girona before Luka Jović helped us to a 1-0 win over Betis and then scored again in the 2-2 draw that saw us into the Copa del Rey semi-final. Pozo continued to impress having forced his way into the starting XI scoring in a 4-1 win over Las Palmas, before our only loss of the month to Madrid.
Pozo scored again in our 3-0 victory over Osasuna to see out the month as Patxi Gómez scored the opener and his first league goal for the club as he came on early on for an injured Franco Vázquez.
Real Madrid once again opened our next months fixtures as we welcomed them to Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan in the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg. Unfortunately this time we couldn’t get the victory as we saw our chances of a Copa del Rey final dashed. Madrid will now play Levante in the final on 22nd May.
We returned to winning ways with a 2-0 win over Rayo Vallecano with Pozo again getting himself a brace. The Spanish winger won January and February’s player of the month awards, showing his talent throughout both months.
We took that form into Europe as we beat Stade Rennais 3-1 in leg one before a 2-2 draw away from home put us into the Europa League Round of 16. The 3-1 win also saw the first start of our new signing, talented left winger Álvaro Coelho, with the Portuguese prospect scoring twice.
Following the second leg we beat Espanyol 3-0 away from home before a 1-0 home victory over Getafe saw us claim 4th place in the table. We then played Barcelona, as the current league leaders once again beat us by a single goal margin. Disappointingly Gabriel Mercado was red carded for the second time in two games and the third time in two months. The Argentine is now 33 and he may be dropping off slightly and is making rash decisions. He is someone we need to focus on replacing next season as the only over option we have at Right-back is 35 year old Jesús Navas. Navas has already indicated he will be retiring at the end of the season and we have agreed that he will become an under 19s coach once his contract runs out.
Having had a really strong three months that had seen us move into the Champions League places, March was a true disappointment that saw us undo a lot of hard work. It started off well with a 3-1 win over Beşiktaş in the Europa League. However, we relied on a 96th minute equaliser from Álvaro Coelho who came off the bench to score a brace against Real Betis. Coelho scored again in the 2nd leg of our tie with Beşiktaş despite losing 2-1 our first leg win saw us progress to the Quarter-Finals where we will face Leicester. A 0-0 draw against Real Sociedad and then a 1-0 loss to Bilbao capped off a disappointing month.
The really disappointing results in March has seen us give up a major opportunity in finishing in the top four as we fall behind Real Madrid who still have two games in hand over us. With ten games to go we seemingly have 5th place secured with a five point gap separating us and Sociedad. Unfortunately fourth now seems unlikely with a two point gap separating us and Madrid but with their two games in hand it is likely they will extend the gap.
April sees us with a chance to go into the final four of the Europa League with our tie against Leicester. The English club currently sit 9th in the Premier League with manager Brendan Rodgers into his second year at the club. A win over Leicester would have a touch of personal pleasure as well, with them holding a fierce rivalry with Dad’s first love, Nottingham Forest.
We end April with a game against Valencia who currently sit 3rd but the month of May is going to be the most important of our season. We play Vilarreal who, with three wins in their three games in hand will be just five points behind us. Before our final two games against the powerhouses of Madrid. Atlético Madrid, who finally look like they will give up their control of Spain having dropped off in recent months but still sit in 2nd place, will travel to us before we play Real Madrid in the final game of the season. Playing Real on the final day could determine who gets that final Champions League spot and therefore we need to be at our best from here on in.
Once again Alejandro Pozo is the man who has suffered the most from injuries in the past few months, spending over 4 weeks on the sidelines. The 22 year old is starting to look like an injury prone player, which is a massive shame as he has shown his class whenever he has been fit. Also struggling with injuries this month was Toni Lato, who had pulled knee ligament, keeping him out for two weeks, whilst Cristóbal Iglesias was out for three weeks with a twisted ankle.
Iglesias is starting to develop into a very good player as he looks to be pushing for a spot in our midfield. The 18 year old has featured 17 times for me so far this season, starting in seven games scoring once and assisting on two occasions.
We still look comfortable in our finances with our January spending seeing it drop off into the €20,000,000 region. However, we should end the season in the positives and with prize money, TV money and increases in Sponsorship expected to be coming in soon, we are looking healthy financially.
In the biggest piece of personal news this month, I have signed an improved contract at the club, keeping me at Sevilla until 2024. With my deal running out in June, the club felt I had done enough to earn a new contract and I am delighted to have signed it to stay at the side.
Cincinnati have kicked off their MLS season in tremendous form losing just one of their opening seven games winning five. The impressive start sees them sat top of the Eastern Conference, with the best record of any MLS side. One of my final signings at the club, Gabriel Mendes has been in fine form so far this season, scoring three goals in just two starts as he is playing second fiddle to Aron Jóhannsson. It’s good to see them doing so well and hopefully I will be able to head back and see a game once we have finished our season here.
We also had our annual youth intake with the only player to really shout about being Juan Ramón Polo. The 15 year old striker is the only player of the batch to get any real mention however, he is unlikely to develop into a good enough player for our first team, which is disappointing.
Justice:They are unfortunately just too good a team at the moment!