Thoughts of revenge might cloud Sevilla FC minds on Sunday when they take on the CA Osasuna side who denied them UEFA Champions League football.
Both teams had unforgettable 2005/06 seasons, with Sevilla winning the UEFA Cup and earning a club-record 68 points and 20 league victories. However, it was not enough to clinch a UEFA Champions League spot as Osasuna pipped them to the all-important fourth place.
That rivalry created a heated atmosphere between the clubs during the latter part of last term, and Sevilla have the additional irritation that Osasuna were the last side to beat them at home, Savo Milošević having scored the only goal in their meeting in February. Sevilla captain Javi Navarro has certainly not forgotten. "We all know we have extra incentive going into this match," he said. "When you choke against the same team, you remember that year after year, but keeping those games in mind helps you get your edge."
This season, the sides have enjoyed differing fortunes. Sevilla are second in the Primera División, a point behind FC Barcelona, while Pamplona-based Osasuna are struggling to deal with European and domestic competition under new coach Cuco Ziganda, who replaced the Club Atlético de Madrid-bound Javier Aguirre. Having missed out on the UEFA Champions League with an away goals defeat by Hamburger SV, they lost their second UEFA Cup group-stage game 3-1 at RC Lens on Thursday following a disappointing draw with SC Heerenveen. Although fans are hungry for success, Ziganda is aware that, with his team 15th in the table, it could be a difficult campaign.
Relying on reserve-team players and his trio of summer signings, Héctor Font, Roberto Soldado and Javad Nekunam, to shake things up, Ziganda - a striker at Osasuna during his playing days and formerly Aguirre's assistant - has found it hard going. He also knows his side must gear up for the trip to Sevilla in no time at all. "What I want is eleven lions that start biting from the first to the 90th minute," he said. "I don't feel comfortable because we're not playing well and every day we seem a touch worse. But we have time and we have to kick on."
With no UEFA Cup assignment this week, Sevilla should be fresh as well as confident. Juande Ramos's close-season acquisitions, Christian Poulsen and Andreas Hinkel, are playing well while Ernesto Chevantón may make his debut after recovering from a back injury. Ramos, meanwhile, insists that despite last season's conflict of interests, he bears Osasuna no malice. "Every match is different: a different season, different players, different times and we can only think about winning the three points to maintain our position," he said. "The rest is history."
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