In the eyes of Frederic Kanoute, Sevilla's experienced striker, his side consider themselves the third-best in the Primera Liga. There is no shame in that when you consider who are numbers one and two. Yet their inconsistency has left them a distant third behind Barcelona and Real Madrid. Excellence has entwined with the erratic. The joys of victories against Real, Valencia, in the league, and Barcelona, in the Copa del Rey, have been tempered by defeats to Getafe, Racing Santander and Real Zaragoza.
It has left the coach, Manolo Jiminez, bemused and under pressure. He is aware that results will determine his future. "I am mature and believe in my work, which is good. I focus on winning for Sevilla, this is my job," he said. Reaching the quarter-finals of the Champions League might help keep him in this job. That is the minimum requirement to satisfy the club president Jose Maria del Nido, who said that would make it "a positive season".
CSKA Moscow stand in their way and Jiminez will be without two matchwinners for the first leg of the last 16 tie in Russia tonight. Luis Fabiano and Diego Capel are injured. Kanoute, though, is available after a thigh strain. At 32, this is his fifth year with the Spanish club and it could be their best chance of making an impact in the Champions League. Teammate Jesus Navas thinks so too after coming through a group stage with just one defeat and a draw in six games.
"Keeping that form will give us a chance," said the lively winger. Moscow will not be overawed. As Mark Gonzalez, the Chilean left winger, said: "If we didn't have the ability to beat Sevilla, we wouldn't be at this stage of the Champions League." With their season ending in November, they are fresh, but admittedly lack match sharpness. One player in particular caught the eye in the group stages - Milos Krasic. With his long blond locks and ability to penetrate defences, he has already drawn comparisons with Pavel Nedved, the former Juventus and Czech Republic hero. If, as expected, the Serbian joins moves to one of Europe's elite leagues after the World Cup, Sevilla could be a destination as he said: "Based on my style of play, I think Spain would be most suitable for me."