The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPORTS -

SEVILLA may have claimed three Europa League tro­phies in a row and en­joyed a blis­ter­ing start to the 2016-17 cam­paign but on Sun­day they were re­minded by Barcelona of the gulf that still ex­ists be­tween the elite in Spain and the chas­ing pack. While Atletico Madrid man­aged to in­ter­rupt the dom­i­nance of Barca and Real Madrid by win­ning La Liga in 2014, Sevilla coach Jorge Sam­paoli knows his team is still a notch be­low them. The for­mer Chile man­ager re­placed Unai Emery in the close sea­son and has sur­passed ex­pec­ta­tions in the first three months. Be­fore Sun­day’s 2-1 La Liga de­feat by Barca, Sevilla had made a per­fect start at their Sanchez Pizjuan sta­dium and also put them­selves in a strong po­si­tion to progress to the Cham­pi­ons League last 16 – some­thing Emery’s teams failed to achieve. Although Sam­paoli’s side ground out a 1-0 home win over Atletico on Oct 23, they still must prove they can over­come tra­di­tional heavy­weights Barcelona and Real Madrid. Sevilla ran Real close be­fore los­ing 3-2 in ex­tra time in the Euro­pean Su­per Cup on Aug 9. Barcelona then ham­mered Sevilla 5-0 on ag­gre­gate to win the Span­ish Su­per Cup later that month. In the lat­est meet­ing against Barca on Sun­day, the qual­ity of Lionel Messi was over­pow­er­ing. The Ar­gentina cap­tain equalised be­fore half­time with his 500th Barca goal and then set up Luis Suarez for the win­ner on the hour.

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