Blog Written by Joshua O'Byrne (@JobJobBinks):
On Thursday night Sassuolo made their debut in the Europa League and achieved arguably the biggest victory in their history. The Neroverdi trashed Athletic Bilbao 3-0 at the Mapei Stadium. It was a historic night for Sassuolo who have made great strides forward in the last six years. Head coach Eusebio Di Francesco couldn’t have wished for a better start to Sassuolo's European campaign but how far can the Neroverdi actually go?
Sassuolo's victory over Bilbao was a fantastic achievement for a club who were playing in Serie B five years ago and the third division eight years ago. Last season Di Francesco's men edged out Milan to reach sixth place which put them into the Europa League qualification round. In qualifying for the Europe League the Neroverdi easily beat Lugano and Red Star Belgrade. After reaching the group stage Sassuolo were dealt a relatively tough draw with Athletic Bilbao, Rapid Wien and Genk being no pushovers.
Sassuolo's first match at home to Bilbao was one that not many people would have expected them to win. Yet Di Francesco's men once again upset the odds dominating Bilbao at the Mapei Stadium with goals from Lirola, Defrel and Politano in the second half completed the famous victory for the Neroverdi. Even without star man, Domenico Berardi, Sassuolo proved they can win big matches. One of the best things about Sassuolo winning their first match in the Europa League is their use of Italian players. Eleven of the fourteen players who featured against Bilbao were Italian. On a night where Fiorentina and Inter both failed to win playing a large number of non-Italians, Sassuolo show that big money does not have to be spent on overseas players to achieve success in Europe.
So after a dream start to the group Sassuolo now have a great chance of making it to the knockout round of the Europa League. Di Francesco's men at the moment look capable of beating any potential opponent they may face in the Europa League. Some Sassuolo fans will be dreaming of lifting the title and I think there is a chance they could. I certainly expect Sassuolo to reach the quarterfinals of the competition.
One of the advantages Sassuolo have is the fact the a lot of teams in the Europa League (mainly the big ones) play second string teams in the competition and rest their star names. Sassuolo however will be taking the Europa League very seriously. Di Francesco's men also have no weight of expectation on their shoulders; it's their first time competing in Europe and should they get knocked out in the quarterfinals or even the last 16 it will be considered a successful European run.
Sassuolo are set up for a great European campaign now, which is sure to give their fans memories that will last a lifetime. Playing an entertaining style of football and focusing on Italian youth they are everyone's favorite underdog for the Europa League. Sassuolo deserves the success they are now having and hopefully they will continue to have more success and maybe just maybe they'll lift the trophy at Friends Arena in Stockholm at the end of May this season.