Sevilla's struggles could hurt its run in Champions League

MADRID (AP) " Sevilla's letdown couldn't have come at a worse time.

The team's recent performances have raised concerns just ahead of a decisive Champions League match against Leicester on Tuesday.

"I'm worried about the team's behavior," Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli said after his team was held to a 1-1 home draw against relegation-threatened Leganes in the Spanish league on Saturday.

It was the second-consecutive setback for third-place Sevilla after a run of five consecutive victories in all competitions. It had also been held to a 1-1 draw at Alaves in the league.

"We know that with this type of performance it will be very difficult to advance in the Champions League," Sampaoli said. "We will face bigger opponents and they won't allow us to make these mistakes. If we don't improve, it will be very difficult."

Sevilla won the first leg against Leicester 2-1 and needs at least a draw in England to reach the quarterfinals of the European competition for the first time in nearly 60 years.

The traditional club from southern Spain is a three-time defending champion in the Europa League, but it hasn't advanced past the last 16 in the top European club competition since 1958.

It fell in the last 16 in 2008 and 2010.

"We have to recover as soon as possible because we have a crucial match on Tuesday," said Stevan Jovetic, who scored Sevilla's equalizer against Leganes. "We have to reverse this situation."

Sampaoli said the team has suddenly lost its poise, especially on offense.

"The team is too anxious when it can't create scoring chances, and well-organized opponents can take advantage of that," he said.

The recent setbacks have been costly for Sevilla in the league, leaving it five points behind leader Real Madrid and three points behind second-place Barcelona.

Seeking its first title since the 1945-46 season, Sevilla hadn't been a contender in nearly a decade. It finished third in the league in 2007 and 2009, and was second for the last time in 1956-57.

"We are having a great season. We have to be proud," Sevilla defender Daniel Carrico said. "We have to keep our focus on Tuesday's game, which it will be very important for us. The overall numbers show that our recent run is not bad. There is no doubt that we are doing something great. The goal for Tuesday is to remain united and give everything we have for this club."

Leicester, the defending Premier League champion, has endured a disappointing season but is enjoying a sort of revival since Claudio Ranieri was fired following the loss to Sevilla. The team is coming off consecutive 3-1 home victories over Hull and Liverpool.

The English club has won all three home games in the Champions League this season, which is its first ever appearance in the top European competition.

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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