SEVILLE – Bayern Munich coach Jupp Heynckes has said there were no celebrations when his players watched the Champions League draw come out, but Sevilla head into Tuesday’s tie as the overwhelming underdogs of the quarter-finals.
Only Roma, who play Barcelona on Wednesday, might claim to face a more formidable task in the last eight, but the Italians have at least grown familiar with the competition’s knockout rounds in recent seasons.
This will be Sevilla’s first ever appearance in a Champions League quarter-final.
“The team was not euphoric (at the draw),” Heynckes said. “They reacted very calmly, as though they just had a beer.
“Of course, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City are playing very well, Liverpool are playing well, but we had five English teams through and we were talking about the best league in the world – three of them are gone. So we must take these guys seriously.”
Sevilla were responsible for the least expected blow landed on the Premier League after they dumped out Manchester United in the last-16 following a fearless 2-1 win at Old Trafford.
It was also the high point of a topsy-turvy three months since Vincenzo Montella took charge mid-season.
There have been the home and away victories over Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey and an early, thumping win at Espanyol.
But there were also the five goals conceded to all three of Eibar, Real Betis and Atletico in the league, as well as a 2-0 loss at home to Valencia, which all but ended any hopes of finishing in the top four.
Sevilla’s 2-2 draw at home to Barcelona on Saturday night was, in 90 minutes, a snapshot of Montella’s reign so far.
Brilliant for 87 minutes, they led 2-0 and looked certain to inflict Barca’s first La Liga defeat of the season, only to throw it away in two disastrous minutes at the end.
It was a thrilling match, which could have physical repercussions when they return to the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium against Bayern.
“On Tuesday, we have to try to have a lot of the ball to run less,” Montella said afterwards.
For Bayern and Heynckes, it makes Sevilla a difficult threat to assess.
“The video analysts have to filter the strengths and weakness of the opponents, and I’ll watch three or four opposition videos,” Heynckes said.
“If you watched them play against United, even after the 1-0 lead, they noticed that United needed two goals and they played really good football. We can’t afford to celebrate already.”
While Montella is already being linked with the post of Italy’s next permanent manager, there is uncertainty too around the future of Bayern’s coach.
With Heynckes set to retire in the summer, Bayern are still searching for his successor after Thomas Tuchel said he had already signed for another club.
Any doubts, however, have not affected the players.
Bayern hammered third-placed Borussia Dortmund 6-0 on Saturday to move 17 points clear of the top of the Bundesliga, and they are looking to reach their sixth Champions League semi-final in seven years.
Manuel Neuer is back in training, but this week is likely to come too soon for the goalkeeper, who has been out since September with a fractured metatarsal in his left foot.
“The injury has healed,” Heynckes said. “But we shouldn’t jump the gun, we will bring him up to speed step by step.”