Sevilla FC coach Manuel Jiménez is looking forward to meeting "the best team in Europe" as Arsenal FC arrive in Andalusia with Group H supremacy at stake.
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Sevilla FC may be enduring a difficult season in Spanish football but the visit of Arsenal FC on Matchday 5 gives them the opportunity to put their UEFA Champions League destiny into their own hands.
Having started their maiden group-stage campaign with a 3-0 loss to Arsène Wenger's team in London, the tantalising fact is that Sevilla can now win Group H outright with a home victory and then a result to equal Arsenal's when the section concludes on 12 December. Coach Manuel Jiménez makes his home debut in the competition, having succeeded the Tottenham Hotspur FC-bound Juande Ramos and taken charge of the 2-0 win at FC Steaua Bucureşti.
Despite suffering their seventh Primera División defeat of the season on Saturday, 2-1 at home to RCD Mallorca, Jiménez welcomes the visit of the in-form Gunners. "There is no better match right now than hosting Arsenal, despite them possibly being the best team in Europe if you combine their domestic and Champions League form," he said. "This is a chance to show what Sevilla are made of. There's no point moaning about the ups and downs we've suffered this term – that's no excuse. The very name Arsenal is a motivation and an inspiration. No matter how difficult an opponent they are, I'm sure Arsène Wenger also knows how difficult we can make it for any team visiting the Ramón Sanchéz-Pizjuán."
Jiménez welcomes back Brazilian international Daniel Alves after a domestic suspension while strikers Frédéric Kanouté, who scored his seventh goal of the campaign at the weekend, and Luis Fabiano are 100 per cent fit having been sidelined by a calf injury and fatigue respectively. "It's important for us to win this group and that is in our hands now," continued the coach. "We will not play conservatively but we will try to play with intelligence. Arsenal are a terrific product of many years' hard work – but we've beaten Real Madrid [CF] and Valencia [CF] already this season which speaks for itself."
Arsenal have a good recent record in Spain, having remained unbeaten in their last three visits to the country. In addition they are yet to concede a Group H goal (they have scored eleven) – a key statistic for a Sevilla team seeking victory to guarantee progress to the knockout stage. And Wenger, despite the significant absences of captain William Gallas – scorer of the opening goal in Saturday's 2-0 Premier League defeat of Wigan Athletic FC – and Emmanuel Adebayor (both rested), Gaël Clichy (thigh) and Robin van Persie (long term), wants to win the match and the pool.
"Finishing first gives you a small but worthwhile advantage in the knockout draw," said the manager. "People thought I was crazy to trust this group of players but now we are one of the teams that can win the Champions League. There are between six and ten sides with that potential and I consider Sevilla one of them." Wenger, whose charges have one point more than their hosts, contends that the result on Matchday 1 was unrepresentative and remains wary of Sevilla. "We were sharp to take advantage of their mistakes," he said.