SEVILLE, Spain (Reuters) - Sevilla coach Vincenzo Montella has suggested the only way his side can stop Manchester United forward Alexis Sanchez in Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 first leg will be to tie the Chilean up with a rope.
Sanchez has only scored once in five games since moving from Arsenal last month but has added a layer of attacking quality to Jose Mourinho’s side, which he showed with a pin-point pass for Romelu Lukaku’s second goal in Saturday’s 2-0 victory at Huddersfield Town in the FA Cup fifth round.
“How do we stop Sanchez? I don’t know, we’ll have to block him in some way, maybe tie him up with a rope,” the 43-year-old Montella told a news conference on Tuesday.
“He’s a fantastic player, I saw him play in Italy. He has improved so much as his career has progressed, he’s very fast, he leads counter-attacks, he’s very strong.”
Mourinho said later on Tuesday that Sanchez had chosen to join United in the middle of the season so he could compete in the Champions League knockout stages, which he was unable to do at Arsenal who are in the Europa League this term.
“Alexis could have waited for the summer window but one of the reasons he came now was the attraction of playing in this stage of the Champions League,” said the Portuguese coach.
“We’re with the best of the best. This is why Alexis wanted to come in January, to play in this competition. So we have to be strong in this tie because if we aren’t he’ll only play two games.”
Montella was a surprise choice to take over at Sevilla when Eduardo Berizzo was sacked in December, but if he outmanoeuvres Mourinho over two legs he will be the first coach to lead the Liga side to the quarter-finals of Europe’s top competition.
Sevilla have failed to reach the last eight in three attempts, falling to Fenerbahce on penalties in 2008, CSKA Moscow in 2010 and Leicester City last season.
Montella’s European experience includes his Fiorentina side being knocked out in the Europa League semi-finals by Sevilla in 2015, while his only Champions League journey was ended in the last 16 by Shakhtar Donetsk in 2011 while in charge of AS Roma.
He spoke in exalted terms of the vastly more experienced 55-year-old Mourinho, who has overseen 139 games in the Champions League and lifted the trophy twice.
“I’m very excited to be facing Mourinho, he was a pioneer in football tactics and I studied him a lot when I was starting out as a coach,” Montella added.
“He has a lot more games than me in the Champions League. Experience is very important, but so is enthusiasm and we will try and play with a lot of it tomorrow.”
Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Ken Ferris