The Morocco star came up trumps against Osasuna last week and it was surprising his manager left him out against Diego Simeone’s troops on Saturday
When Youssef En-Nesyri scrambled the ball home from Jules Kounde’s header back across goal last weekend, it settled a wildly exciting afternoon where Sevilla had led Osasuna, who were reduced to 10 men, 2-0, only to be pegged back with 15 minutes left to play.
The Moroccan netted in the third minute of stoppage time to spare Julen Lopetegui’s blushes with the 3-2 victory. It was just what the former Spain manager needed after a testing run that’s threatened their Champions League qualification at the end of the season. The Seville giants had gone into last week’s game with only two wins from seven, and drawing against another out-of-form side in La Liga would have been frustrating.
Having seen his team drop points against Deportivo Alaves, Celta Vigo and Espanyol in February alone, what Lopetegui didn’t want was his side failing to win against another team against whom Los Nervionenses were expected to take maximum points.
For context, all three of the aforementioned clubs are in the bottom-half of the standings, with Celta and Espanyol in the bottom four and fighting relegation. Last Sunday’s opponents, Osasuna, had lost three in four before the game at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium and were 12th before kick-off.
Dropping points will have further amplified Sevilla’s strange struggles on home turf, where they’ve failed to pick up maximum points in more than half of their 13 games in front of their fans, thus having the 10th-best home record in the division.
Contrast that to their away form, which is only bettered by Real Madrid, and it’s clear where their problems lie.
The signing of En-Nesyri in January from struggling Leganes hadn’t done much to change their fortunes…until the former Lega man came up trumps with a double Osasuna last Sunday.
There was hope the former Malaga frontman would build on last week’s individual showing against Atletico Madrid on Saturday, only for the Morocco international to be left on the bench despite his brace against the side from Pamplona. What was impressive about the forward’s goals against Los Rojillos was how both demonstrated his finishing ability, anticipation and off-the-ball movement, different qualities from the physical attributes for which he is typically lauded.
His only other strike for the Seville outfit came in their 2-1 defeat by Celta, a match in which Los Palanganas threw away in the final 10 minutes having led for nearly an hour.
Before Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Wanda Metropolitano, the Morocco star had scored three goals in six appearances since mid-January, which is fairly impressive for a new signing at any club. He’d started only half of those games, but that didn’t stop him from delivering in just 294 minutes of football for Lopetegui’s side.
A goal every 98 minutes is impressive, and En-Nesyri who could only find the back of the net on four occasions for Leganes in 18 appearances is just one goal away from equalling his tally for the Cucumber Growers having played over a 1000 minutes fewer.
His new manager has eased him in since his move at the turn of the year, but maybe that strategy needs to be altered given how he’s just two goals behind Luuk de Jong, who’s netted only five times in 24 appearances this season.
Admittedly, the Dutchman netted in this weekend’s entertaining draw in Madrid, but there’s a perception that having the new signing lead the line will serve the team better given their ambition to end in the Champions League slots.
Conversely, while En-Nesyri may have the numbers to back him up against the 29-year-old Dutchman, he’s also put a bit of doubt in Lopetegui’s mind owing to his profligate finishing in draws against Alaves and Espanyol in February.
Be that as it may, de Jong can be equally wasteful too, evidenced by his 12 big chances missed this term, while his new teammate has missed a total of nine.
Regardless of his decision to opt for the European striker against Atleti, did the former Real Madrid boss miss a trick by leaving out the in-form striker against Diego Simeone’s troops, whose standards have slipped this season?
Los Colchoneros have dropped flimsy points at home – Saturday was their fifth league stalemate at Wanda Metropolitano – and on their travels this season and don’t seem to have the ruthless efficiency that’d been their forte in previous years under the Argentine manager.
While En-Nesyri was introduced for the final 27 minutes in the capital, the away side were on the back foot, seemingly content with their point, so it was hard to make an impact with the home side on the front foot.
Still, Simeone’s side’s apparent decline this term has given teams chasing Champions League football hope, and it’s reflective in the table with only five points separating Sevilla in third and Valencia in seventh after Saturday’s fixtures.
Despite not playing in Europe’s premier club competition since 2017-18, they will fancy their chances of finishing in the top four this term, but so will Getafe, Real Sociedad (who have a game in hand) and Valencia.
Finishing in the top four would represent success for Lopetegui in his first season at the club, but will he trust the obvious goalscoring qualities of En-Nesyri to fire his side back into the continent’s most prestigious competition?