The Europa League, the continent’s oft-maligned second-string tournament, has thrown up a treat for the city of Seville. Real Betis and Sevilla FC both overcame their round of 32 opponents to set up a derby double-header on March 13 and 20.
Sevilla, coached by Unai Emery, beat Maribor 2-1 in Slovenia to progress 4-2 on aggregate while Betis, recently taken over by Gabriel Calderón, beat Rubin Kazan 3-1 over the two legs. The first match will be played at Sevilla’s Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán stadium, with the return match to be hosted by Betis at the Benito Villamarín. It will be the 118th derby between the two fierce rivals, but the first to be played out on the European stage.
In reality, few of the side’s fans expected a clash of these proportions – Betis especially, as the club is languishing at the foot of the Primera table, 11 points adrift of 17th-placed Málaga. Despite its parlous league position, Betis summoned all of its unpredictability to beat Kazan in Tatarstan, the first time any side has done so in European competition since Parma in 2006.
“There are no favorites in a derby and we are really looking forward to playing this tie,” said Calderón.
Sevilla’s progress was more expected, as the side has finally found its feet under Emery after a few seasons of underwhelming performances. The red side of Seville bestrode this competition in the mid-2000s, winning the title in 2005-06 and 2006-07. However, standing eight points shy of Real Sociedad in sixth and with the sides above in generally dominant form, Sevilla may have to repeat that feat to qualify for European action next season. In Europe, though, Sevilla is unbeaten, chalking up eight wins and four draws.
Of the 117 Seville derbies contested, Sevilla has won 52, Betis 36 and honors have been shared on 29 occasions.