Mendilibar starts Sevilla survival bid with Cadiz clash

New Sevilla coach Jose Luis Mendilibar kicks off his bid to save the club from relegation with a crucial Andalusian derby at Cadiz on Saturday in La Liga.

Mendilibar is the third coach Sevilla have had this season, after they sacked Julen Lopetegui in October and then dismissed his successor Jorge Sampaoli last week.

The latter coach led Sevilla into the Europa League last eight where they will face Premier League giants Manchester United, but the worrying La Liga situation led to his dismissal, after a 2-0 defeat by Getafe before the international break.

Sevilla are 14th, just two points above the relegation zone, level on 28 points from 26 games with their opponents Cadiz, 15th.

Mendilibar had a successful spell at minnows Eibar in La Liga between 2015 and 2021, although he took them down in his last season at the club.

The 62-year-old had a less enjoyable time at Alaves, where he was sacked in 2022 after four months at the helm with the team bottom of La Liga.

His appointment at Sevilla has drawn criticism from some quarters, including from the club's former sporting director Oscar Arias.

"Mendilibar is not the right coach for a squad like Sevilla's," Arias told Radio Marca.

"The players don't know how to take on these kind of games, they have a lot of doubts, and it's a delicate situation."

The record six-time Europa League winners have not had to worry about the threat of relegation for many years.

Sevilla dropped to the second division in 2000 and returned the following year, remaining in La Liga since then.

The last time they finished outside the top seven was in 2013 — when they came ninth — and they have not ended up in the bottom-half since they returned to the top flight.

"I am convinced that in Europe Sevilla are respected more than they are in La Liga, for what they have done in the Europa League, with a load of recent triumphs," said Mendilibar.

"Of course (we can survive), with the squad we have, the calmness that we have to have to go out there with, how well we will do.

"This year is a setback, and there's a disadvantage in that our rivals are used to being down here. The advantage that Sevilla have, is the quality of the players here."

Cadiz have staved off relegation in each of the past three seasons since they arrived in La Liga in 2020 and may prove tricky for Sevilla to break down.

"We aren't thinking about failing, to start with," added Mendilibar.

"It could happen. They've signed us for the long-term, not for one game.

"It would be very good for us to win (against Cadiz), above all for the players' confidence."

Elsewhere, La Liga leaders Barcelona visit Elche on Saturday looking to add to their 12-point advantage on second place Real Madrid, before the champions face Real Valladolid on Sunday.

The Barcelona forward's father made headlines earlier in the week when he complained about his son's lack of opportunities this season.

Ansu Fati should start against bottom-of-the-table Elche and it's a chance for him to get back on track and prove his quality after a difficult campaign to date.

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