Despite four successive defeats midfielder Jesús Navas believes Sevilla FC can mark their home debut in the competition with a victory against SK Slavia Praha.
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If anyone at Sevilla FC should appreciate the significance of the long-awaited arrival of the UEFA Champions League at the Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán Stadium, it is surely the Spanish side's gifted midfielder Jesús Navas.
Born in Seville, blessed with extravagant talent yet prone to bouts of acute homesickness, the 21-year-old has been at the club since the age of 16. So he, more than any other team-mate, can understand the pride that the red-and-white half of the Andalusian city feel about Europe's premier club competition coming to town. Neighbours Real Betis Balompié may have reached the group stage in 2005/06 but Sevilla have claimed local bragging rights since with five trophies in the last two seasons, including successive UEFA Cup victories, and Navas recognises the opportunity the Group H visit of SK Slavia Praha offers to his side.
"It's a source of great pride that the Champions League is finally here," said Navas, whose team slipped to a 3-0 defeat at Arsenal FC on Matchday 1. "Given that we lost at Arsenal, this match has already become the key game if we want to qualify for the knockout phase. Three points are imperative in order to ensure we get back on to an even keel, but I also feel we owe our fans a winning debut in this competition. We'll give everything we have to start at home with a victory."
The Arsenal reverse sparked a run of four straight defeats as FC Barcelona, RCD Espanyol and Real Zaragoza all subsequently overcame Sevilla, meaning another loss against Slavia would mark the club's worst sequence of results since Juande Ramos took charge in 2005. "It's been very frustrating to perform like this, but we have been creating loads of chances and if we'd put even a small percentage of them away then we'd be winning games with some ease," Navas said. "From what we've learned, Slavia are a tight unit and very hard-working. In order to win, we will have to impose a very high tempo and begin to take our chances when we create them. Just one victory will put us back on a positive run again, I'm sure of it."