Manchester United could have faced Bayern Munich, Juventus or Real Madrid in the Champions League last 16 – but instead they will play Sevilla.
While many fans will breathe a sigh a relief at what seems a comparatively easy draw, United will have to be wary of a side well versed in European football.
So who are Sevilla and what can United expect from them in February. Sportsmail’s guide has the answers…
Manchester United have been drawn against Sevilla in the Champions League last 16
United will fancy their chances of progressing against the side currently fifth in La Liga
Sevilla were thrashed 5-0 at Real Madrid on Saturday and are not having a classic season
This looks a good draw. Better than Real Madrid anyway?
A lot better, five goals better judging from Saturday’s result at the Bernabeu: Real Madrid 5-0 Sevilla.
Are they really that poor?
They are fifth in the league so, no. They also came through a tough Champions League group, albeit behind Liverpool, but this is not shaping up to be a vintage Sevilla season, so United can take full advantage of that.
What was the problem on Saturday against Madrid?
They conceded five in 40 minutes and the first three were gifts. Centre-forward Luis Muriel was back defending a corner but instead of clearing the ball he headed it goalwards and Nacho scored. Then they failed to play the offside trap properly to let Cristiano Ronaldo in, before Jesus Navas flapped at the ball in the penalty area and conceded a penalty.
Sevilla conceded all five goals in the first half against Real – their defence has real problems
So defence is the problem?
They have conceded more than most teams in the top half, although French defender Clement Lenglet is one of their best recent signings. He arrived in January from Nancy and the 22-year-old is already attracting the attention of other clubs.
How are they in midfield?
Stephen N’Zonzi has been a problem, in more ways than one. He started the season upset that he had not been allowed to leave in the summer. His form has not been great and the finger was literally pointed at him when Liverpool went 3-0 up at half-time in the Champions League.
He was taken off at the break and Sevilla came back to draw 3-3. Since then he has not featured and was in London last week as Everton weighed up a possible move.
French defender Clement Lenglet (centre) is one of Sevilla’s better recent signings
Would him going leave them short?
Ever Banega has dropped back in alongside Guido Pizarro and they have been a better pair. Pizarro looks a good signing and on his day Banega is as good as anyone, although consistency has always been his problem.
What about up front?
They are relying on Nolito and Navas for width and so far those two have not sparked. There is huge affection for Navas, who in his next game will become the highest appearance maker in Sevilla’s history.
Nolito is looking fit and sharp and still harbours dreams of a good second half of the season and a late run at Spain’s World Cup squad, but clearly it’s not like having Bale and Ronaldo running at you.
At centre-forward Muriel looks to have potential but he only has three league goals so far – the same as Wissam Ben Yedder who he has shared minutes with. They need a centre-forward.
Nolito (centre) is back looking sharp after his disappointing year at Manchester City
Is that the danger for United? That they will strengthen in January and be a more testing rival come February?
If they sell N’Zonzi there will be money to spend. His buy-out is set at €40m but they will accept €25m.
They will reinvest if they can offload him, but the old ‘moneyball’ miracle worker Monchi is now at Roma and so they struggle to work the same magic in the transfer market.
Who will take charge of the game? Will Eduardo Berizzo be back on the touchline after his cancer diagnosis?
He had an operation last week, and the hope is that he will return to the bench in time for the new year. That suggests he will be back to face Jose Mourinho in his technical area but there is no official timescale from the club. If he is still recuperating then No 2 Ernesto Marcucci will take the reigns.
Manager Eduardo Berizzo will hope to be back in the dugout for the tie after cancer surgery
Have the players been inspired by their coach?
He didn’t break the news to them at half-time in the Liverpool game, but it does seem to have been the case that certain players looked at their manager in that interval and it pushed them to turn around that game in such epic fashion.
Sevilla have plenty of bottle. What they lack in top players and big money signings they tend to make up for in spirit.
Mourinho will know all about that from his La Liga days. They also have great European pedigree although it tends to show itself in the Europa League. This will not be a breeze, but it still ought to be a safe passage into the quarters for United.