Sampaoli faces a difficult return to Sevilla against Bilbao

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — With two days to get to know his players, Jorge Sampaoli will see how much work is needed to restore Sevilla to Spanish power when they play red-hot Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

Sampaoli will begin his second spell with Sevilla after the 62-year-old Argentinian returned to the club he managed in 2016-17 before he was dumped to take charge of his national team for the World Cup.

“The most important thing I learned is that I have to adapt first to my players, not to them, in the short term,” Sampaoli said on Friday, just a day before meeting his players after signing contracts for the rest of this season. and the next one.

After leading Sevilla to a fourth-place finish and the Champions League as a result in 2017, Sampaoli said he wanted to fulfill his “dream” of coaching his national team when Argentina came knocking. Sevilla let him out of the second year of his deal after negotiations with Argentina.

Sampaoli had made his name internationally while coaching Chile to the Round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup and to the Copa América title in 2015. However, things did not go so well for Sampaoli with Argentina as he was sacked after a poor performance at the 2018 World Cup. He then coached Brazilian sides Atlético Mineiro and Santos and, most recently, French side Marseille.

When he arrived for his first spell at Sevilla, he had time to prepare properly in the preseason. Now Sampaoli must train on the move against a Bilbao side that have lost just once in seven rounds and sit third behind Barcelona and Real Madrid.

“We’re only thinking about tomorrow’s game,” Sampaoli said. “Setting goals today is just lying to ourselves and I can’t waste my time on that. I have to quickly convey my ideas to my players so they feel confident and can compete.”

Sampaoli inherits a team that has managed just one win in 10 games in total between the Spanish league and the Champions League under Julen Lopetegui, who was sacked on Wednesday after a 4-1 home defeat by Borussia Dortmund.

The team has been jeered by their fans in recent defeats. That criticism was aimed at both Lopetegui and the club’s management, who sold and failed to replace prized centre-backs Jules Coute and Diego Carlos in the summer.

While Sevilla are struggling, Bilbao are soaring after coach Ernesto Valverde returned for a third spell with the Basque club.

Sampaoli’s first task will be to find an answer to Bilbao’s Williams brothers, as Iñaki and Nico Williams have excelled with three goals apiece.


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