Bolton eye last 32 in 'biggest game' of Allardyce's career

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The Independent Online

Sam Allardyce faces one of the biggest games of his career tonight as his Bolton Wanderers side play the Spanish club Seville with a place in the last 32 of the Uefa Cup as the prize.

A draw will be enough to put Bolton through in their debut season in European competition, and Allardyce is excited at the prospect of Bolton making further progress. "This is one of the biggest games in my career," he said.

"The history books were rewritten at the end of last season when the team achieved the opportunity to play in Europe for the first time. We felt then that we would just go out and enjoy ourselves. But we haven't just gone and enjoyed it, we have played exceptionally well, home and away, without losing a match. It is very crucial we keep the bandwagon rolling."

Allardyce has broken one of his vows coming into the match - namely that the League must always take priority over knock-out competitions.

He is adamant Bolton are going all out to carry on in the Uefa Cup and also the Carling Cup - they travel to Wigan in the quarter-finals next Tuesday. The Premiership match against Everton on Saturday has to some extent been pushed into the background.

"Our consistency in the League is the best it has ever been and we are in a healthy position," said Allardyce. "We have managed to achieve a level of football other people did not think was possible. Because we have accumulated a good number of points, it allows us to focus on the competitions that we are in and do the best we possibly can."

Bolton have good reason to feel quietly confident going into the match against the Spanish side, given that they have lost only once at home this season, and Allardyce believes his players look intimidating opposition on their own patch.

"We have made the Reebok a very difficult place to come to," he said. "That's the most satisfying thing. People are frightened to get off the coach and walk down the tunnel. We will continue to make it even more frightening as the season goes on."

Seville lost to Barcelona on Sunday despite taking the lead through the former Tottenham striker Frédéric Kanouté, and Allardyce knows they are dangerous opponents. He added: "Seville are probably the toughest team we are going to meet in this competition. We need to be on top form if we are going to clinch the point that we need.

"If we give our normal solid defensive performance and produce the clean sheets we are known for, we will go through. We have to try to score first because if we do that it will make life a lot easier for ourselves."

The veteran midfielder Gary Speed, who has played in Europe with Newcastle and Leeds, is determined Bolton will reach their goal. "It would be a great achievement if we were to get into the last 32," he said.

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