Sevilla are the most successful team in the tournament’s history as five-time winners of the UEFA Cup or Europa League. They are second in LaLiga and looked set to push Real Madrid for the Spanish title until a 0-0 draw at lowly Alaves on Friday set them back.
Julen Lopetegui’s side have lost just twice in LaLiga all season and have the best defensive record in the division, conceding just 18 goals in 27 games.
They will be a tough nut to crack for a West Ham forward line that will be missing the pace of Jarrod Bowen.
At the heart of the Sevilla defence is the formidable pairing of Jules Kounde and Diego Carlos. Kounde is Chelsea’s top target at centre-back, while the no-nonsense Carlos was a target for Newcastle in January before Sevilla made it clear he was not for sale.
That pairing is protected by former Manchester City man Fernando, the 34-year-old Brazilian still a master at breaking up and disrupting opposing attacks.
From their solid base, Sevilla play a patient, possession-based game. Ahead of Fernando are the more creative pair of Jordan and former Barcelona man Ivan Rakitic.
Even at 33, Rakitic, who plays as the most advanced of the three, is the heartbeat of the team, the man West Ham will need to stop over two legs and possibly extra-time of what could be a close tie. Moyes will hope he can call on Declan Rice to marshal their main man.
Sevilla’s game is far from the free-flowing football Rakitic would have been used to at Camp Nou but they still dominate the ball and look to probe opposing defences over long spells of possession, something which may well suit West Ham.
Moyes acknowledged after their impressive performance in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Liverpool that his team have struggled against sides who let West Ham have the ball and leave no space on the counter. Sevilla certainly won’t do that, especially at home backed by a ferocious crowd at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium.
Much like West Ham, one of Sevilla’s biggest problems is in attack. Lopetegui has more options than Moyes but none of his forwards are seen in Spain as out-and-out top level strikers. It is very rare for them to blow teams away as other top sides in Europe might.
Youssef En-Nesyri, a man West Ham have targeted in the past, is likely to lead the line, flanked by Munir and Jesus ‘Tecatito’ Corona, a tricky winger signed from Porto in January.
Frustrating Sevilla appears to be the key for West Ham to return to the London Stadium well-placed ahead of the second leg next week. The Ramon Sanchez has somewhat of a European mystique around it on nights like these, which is another factor they will have to face.
Those who do well against Sevilla often silence the crowd and shut out the forward line before pouncing late on.
Sevilla may have been the most testing of draws for West Ham, but they will have belief it is a task they are capable of meeting it on what is their biggest night in years.