Football

Sevilla the most important game of the season: Matic

Matic and Mourinho hype up crunch Champions League second-leg clash

  • Tie level 0-0 on aggregate

Manchester United pair Nemanja Matic and Jose Mourinho sought to play down the 2-1 win over Liverpool last Saturday and highlight the importance of tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) clash with Sevilla.

The Champions League last-16, second-leg clash at Old Trafford is finely poised after the first leg 0-0 at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan.

ROUND OF 16, 2ND LEG
MAN UNITED SEVILLA

Said midfielder Matic: "The next game is very important for us, maybe the most important game of the season.

"We have to beat Sevilla to go through, so we give our best."

His manager Mourinho seemed to agree, saying: "Liverpool is Liverpool, it is a big match, it is a match against a direct competitor for the top, but nothing is decided yet.

"We have eight more games and 24 points to play for.

"But Sevilla and (the FA Cup quarter-final against) Brighton are live or die games, so the next two are much more important...

"I can imagine that if we lose against Sevilla, everyone will have forgotten what we did in the last couple of weeks."

Despite the Red Devils holding the advantage of playing the second leg at home without a deficit to overcome, Sevilla president Jose Castro believes his side are on the cusp of reaching the last eight of European football's premier cup competition for the first since 1957/58.

He said: "We're close to achieving something significant after 60 years without reaching the quarter-finals."

Sevilla coach Vincenzo Montella was also keen to move on from Saturday's 2-0 loss to Valencia and focus on a potentially historic European tie.

He said: "We have to forget this defeat and think about Tuesday. It can be a historic match for the club if we get into the quarter-finals."

Sevilla defender Clement Lenglet, meanwhile, believes his side are ready for the Red Devils and warned that United will see the best of the La Liga side if they score first.

The Copa del Rey finalists have failed to score in only five of their 22 away games in all competitions this season and have lost only one of their last six games away from home.

Only Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Kane, Edinson Cavani and Roberto Firmino have scored more times in the Champions League than Sevilla attacker Wissam Ben Yedder (six goals) this season.

Frenchman Lenglet told Spanish broadcaster COPE Sevilla: "I believe we are ready for United...

"We have put a lot of planning and preparation into this game with different strategies and ideas on how we can hurt them.

"We are a strong team once we take the lead."

Mourinho-managed teams, too, are difficult to beat when they are ahead - a fact highlighted by a prolific Liverpool side's struggles to break down United after the Portuguese set his side up defensively in the second period following Marcus Rashford's two-goal salvo in the first 24 minutes.

It was the 20-year-old's first English Premier League start since the 2-2 draw with Burnley last December - and former Inter Milan, Ajax Amsterdam and Crystal Palace manager Frank de Boer opined that it was a pity that the Englishman was managed by a results-orientated coach like Mourinho.

However, Rashford insists he is learning more on the training ground from his boss than on the pitch on matchday.

He explained: "Right now, I'm probably not learning the most on the pitch.

"In training is where I'm doing most of my learning.

"You have to take it into the game, and today it worked."

Rashford also insisted that he didn't need to be reassured by his manager when he was struggling for playing time, saying: "He doesn't have to (speak to me).

"In football, you are going to be up, you're going to be down.

"The most important thing is sticking together as a squad."

Football