There was a slightly deflated air among the Sevilla FC squad after their draw against VfB Stuttgart, although Jesús Navas believes the team's work ethic could yet make for a memorable campaign.
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Even if there was a slightly deflated air among the Sevilla FC squad following their 1-1 home draw against VfB Stuttgart, with a place in the last 16 already assured there remains a feeling that something special might be brewing at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán.
Strength in depth
With key players like Andrés Palop, Frédéric Kanouté, Adriano, Renato and Álvaro Negredo either absent or among the substitutes, the Group G leaders still produced a solid display, Luis Fabiano becoming the leading assist provider in this season's UEFA Champions League by setting up his fourth goal, and only when Sevilla were reduced to ten men through an injury to Aldo Duscher were Stuttgart able to conjure an equaliser. The Spanish side surrendered their perfect record at home in Europe's premier club competition after six successive wins, although it took an extraordinary late goal from Zdravko Kuzmanović to deny them a seventh, and at the heart of everything that went well for Sevilla was scorer Jesús Navas.
"We played a really good first half and also had a few opportunities to get that second goal and take the match away from Stuttgart but we didn't manage it," said the 23-year-old, whose 14th-minute goal was his fifth in nine matches. "It was our bad luck that because of an injury to our third substitute we ended the game with only ten men and they scored a great goal in that time. This result, and the way the game went, only shows how well we performed over in Germany to beat Stuttgart away. After this match the coach told us we simply have to stick to the same work ethic and we can achieve important things this season."
Navas now has two goals and an assist in his last two UEFA Champions League games, while his improved consistency in the Spanish Liga and an increasing tendency to score at crucial moments, such as in last month's 2-1 defeat of Real Madrid CF, have also caught the eye this season. It all adds up to an increasing clamour for the midfielder to finally win recognition from Spain, whose coach Vincente del Bosque has made positive noises despite the Andalusian's well-documented anxiety issues when such opportunities arise.
"I'm working hard and that work is reaping its benefits," he explained. "Things are coming off for me and while the team is involved in trying to achieve important things it's my responsibility to bring whatever I can to the general effort. Regarding any potential participation with Spain, I'm calm at the moment. I'll just take the process step by step and it's likely that I'll make a decision regarding playing for Spain on Thursday."