The Round of 16 draws for the 2021/22 Europa League season have been done, producing eight tasty ties to look forward to.
West Ham unlucky to draw the strongest Spanish team in the Round of 16
West Ham United were hopeful of a deep run in the Europa League this season but the Round of 16 draw may have just scuppered that hope.
Arguably, the biggest of those eight games is Sevilla v West Ham, the perennial Europa League campaigners against the newcomers.
West Ham are not your average newcomers, however. David Moyes’ men finished the Group Stage in dominant fashion, topping Group H with 13 points and conceding just three goals in the process, the joint-best defence in the group stage along with Galatasaray and Lazio.
Their league form has been very good as well, currently sixth on the log and on course for another Europa League spot finish.
These factors contributed to West Ham being perceived as one of the strongest teams in this year’s Europa League, and culminated in an expectation for a deep run in the competition.
But it now appears that those fantasies may be over already as West Ham have been drawn against a Spanish team, which is never good news in this competition.
Eleven of the last 18 editions of European football’s second-tier competition (Europa League/UEFA Cup) have been won by a team from Spain.
To make matters worse, West Ham have not drawn just any Spanish team, they were unlucky to face the strongest possible one; not Barcelona… Sevilla.
Sevilla have contributed six of those 11 titles won by Spanish teams (Valencia, Atletico Madrid x3 and Villareal contributed the other five), making them the most successful team in Europa League history.
Sevilla and Barcelona are the only two Spanish teams left in the Europa League which means either one of them has a chance to continue the Spanish dominance.
However, both history and current form suggest West Ham would have been better off facing Barcelona in the round of 16 than Sevilla. Barcelona currently sit fourth in La Liga, nine points behind second-placed Sevilla.
Xavi’s Catalan side have 42 points and have also scored 42 goals in La Liga so far, the same number of points West Ham have in the Premier League with David Moyes’ team even registering three more goals.
The similar nature of their league campaigns means West Ham v Barcelona would have been a more balanced fixture, the Hammers are definitely underdogs against Sevilla.
Barcelona did get a much easier tie though, they will face Galatasaray, the Turkish giants who have declined massively over the years and are now struggling.
In the other fixtures, Rangers led by the Nigerian trio of Joe Aribo, Leon Balogun and Calvin Bassey will play against Red Star Belgrade.