LaLiga: Mendilibar starts Sevilla survival bid with Cadiz derby clash

On Saturday, new Sevilla coach Jose Luis Mendilibar kicks off his bid to save the club from relegation with a crucial La Liga Andalusian derby at Cadiz.

Mendilibar is the third manager Sevilla has had this season, after it sacked Julen Lopetegui in October and then dismissed his successor Jorge Sampaoli last week. The latter led Sevilla into the Europa League round of eight where the club will face Premier League giant Manchester United, but the worrying La Liga situation led to his dismissal, after a 2-0 defeat by Getafe before the international break.

Sevilla is in 14th place, just two points above the relegation zone, level on 28 points from 26 games with its opponent, 15th-placed Cadiz. Mendilibar had a successful spell at minnows Eibar in La Liga between 2015 and 2021, although the team was relegated in his last season at the club. The 62-year-old had a less enjoyable time at Alaves, where he was sacked in 2022 after four months at the helm with the team bottom of La Liga. His appointment at Sevilla has drawn criticism from some quarters, including from the club's former sporting director Oscar Arias

"Mendilibar is not the right manager for a squad like Sevilla's," Arias told Radio Marca. "The players don't know how to take on these kinds of games, they have a lot of doubts, and it's a delicate situation."

The record six-time Europa League winner has not had to worry about the threat of relegation for many years. Sevilla dropped to the second division in 2000 and returned the following year, remaining in La Liga since then. The last time the team finished outside the top seven was in 2013 -- when it came ninth -- and the Andalusian club has not ended up in the bottom-half of the standings since it returned to the top-flight.

"I am convinced that in Europe, Sevilla is respected more than it is in La Liga, for what it has done in the Europa League, with a load of recent triumphs," Mendilibar said. "Of course [we can survive], with the squad we have, the calmness that we have to go out there with, how well we will do. This year is a setback, and there's a disadvantage in that our rivals are used to being down here. The advantage that Sevilla has, is the quality of the players here."

Cadiz has staved off relegation in each of the past three seasons since the club arrived in La Liga in 2020 and may prove tricky for Sevilla to break down.

"We aren't thinking about failing, to start with," Mendilibar added. "It could happen. They've signed us for the long-term, not for one game. It would be very good for us to win [against Cadiz], above all for the players' confidence."

Elsewhere, La Liga leader Barcelona visits Elche on Saturday looking to add to its 12-point advantage on second place Real Madrid, before last year's champion faces Real Valladolid on Sunday.

Player to watch: Ansu Fati

The Barcelona forward's father made headlines earlier in the week when he complained about his son's lack of opportunities this season. Ansu Fati should start against last place Elche and it's a chance for him to get back on track and prove his quality after a difficult campaign to date.

Saturday: Girona vs Espanyol, Athletic Bilbao vs Getafe, Cadiz vs Sevilla, Elche vs Barcelona
Sunday: Celta Vigo vs Almeria, Real Madrid vs Real Valladolid, Villarreal vs Real Sociedad, Atletico Madrid vs Real Betis
Monday: Valencia vs Rayo Vallecano

© Agence France-Presse

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications