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“Odegard knows me very well at Madrid, he knows i don’t joke with Champions League, Saka and Martinelli are too easy for me to handle”- Street-fighter Sergio Ramos delivers a brutal press conference ahead of Sevilla’s clash against Arsenal in the Champions League tonight

La Liga team will start an experienced defender when they play the Gunners in back-to-back games.
A daring manager would allow cameras to snoop about in his dressing room. Mikel Arteta of Arsenal was forced to comply for an All Or Nothing documentary series, which then shared some of his unconventional motivational strategies with a dubious audience.

However, Arteta had at least received a warning. The cameras and microphones of La Liga’s broadcasters followed Diego Alonso’s team meetings during and after Sevilla’s 1-1 draw with Real Madrid at the weekend, giving him the impression that he was being ambushed on his European managerial debut.

Alonso, appointed two weeks ago as Sevilla’s fourth different coach in barely two years, emerged from the close-ups and eavesdropping with credit. His instructions ahead of a contest he described as a “street fight”, we rousing, his praise for his “brave” players generous.

On camera, Alonso received a significant endorsement, too, an embrace from the street-fighter supreme, Sevilla’s most worldly warrior, Sergio Ramos.

Against Arteta’s Arsenal, Ramos will on Tuesday make his 140th appearance in the Champions League. Alonso, freshly arrived from South America, will be on the touchline in a Uefa competition for the first time in his career.

Between player and coach lies an imbalance of experience that the new Sevilla manager must handle carefully, maintaining his own authority while gaining from all the know-how available in Ramos and other veterans in his squad.

When Ramos returned this summer to Sevilla, where he had begun his senior professional career more than two decades ago, it was not a move entirely welcomed by supporters. During 16 years at Real Madrid, the demonstrative Ramos made one or two provocative gestures towards Sevilla fans but there is no denying his impact.

But for a fine late save from Madrid goalkeeper Kepa, a trademark Ramos header might have claimed all three points from the weekend. Ramos had earlier cleared a Madrid effort from just in front of the Sevilla goal-line.

His homecoming reunites him with a club who, during the years Ramos was away, mainly at Madrid, and latterly for a two-season stint in Paris, defined themselves as one of football’s sharpest operators at scouting talent and selling it on at big profit.

But to look at the current Sevilla, Europa League holders but in the bottom half of the Spanish table, is to note the reliable habit of discovering gifted players as they approach their peaks has hit some snags.

The Sevilla Alonso inherited from Jose Luis Mendilibar, sacked after a poor start to the 2023/24 campaign, lean heavily on old allies. Against Arsenal, the 37-year-old Ramos will likely line up in a defence including his contemporary Jesus Navas. Like Ramos and Navas – formerly of Manchester City – Ivan Rakitic, 35, is in a second spell at Sevilla.

Arteta, at 41, is young enough to have played against Ramos and Navas, and indeed he was witness, 19 autumns ago, to Ramos’s first ever goal in La Liga, scored against Arteta’s then club Real Sociedad.

More than a century of club goals have followed in the long, decorated career of Ramos, the streetfighter centre-back with the instincts of a target-man striker, the icon still defying the idea of retirement.

Arteta will advise his Arsenal, who drew 2-2 at Chelsea at the weekend, to monitor Ramos in both penalty areas. He will encourage his younger forwards to test the Sevilla veterans with their pace in transition. Among Navas’s tasks at full-back will be to try to contain 22-year-old Gabriel Martinelli.

Ramos can expect to renew acquaintance with Gabriel Jesus. Their last meeting finished prematurely for the former Spain captain in a Champions League knockout tie between Madrid and Jesus’s then club Manchester City at the Bernabeu.

A foul on the Brazilian striker by the defender; a red card for Ramos, one of the 28 times he has been sent off in a senior career that has taken in World Cup and two European championship triumphs, and four winning Champions League finals.

“We should be confident in the resources we have,” said Alonso, gesturing to the mass of experience in the likes of Ramos, Rakitic and Navas as he looked ahead to Arsenal’s arrival in Spain for the first of back-to-back fixtures with, already, much at stake.

Arsenal lost at Lens, the group leaders, earlier this month, and if they lose to Sevilla, who have drawn their two matches so far, Arteta’s men would slip out of the top two places in the mini-league.

Can“It’s going to be challenge against this opposition,” acknowledged Alonso. “But we can impose ourselves on the game.”


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