By Richard Martin
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Sevilla coach Jorge Sampaoli warned his side after their surprise 1-1 La Liga draw at home to Leganes on Saturday that they must arrest the downward spiral in performances or face elimination from the Champions League by Leicester City.
Sevilla's hopes of pipping pacesetters Barcelona and Real Madrid to the Spanish title suffered another setback in the draw with Leganes, who are 16th with 32 points fewer than Sevilla.
The struggling Madrid side raced into the lead in the third minute at the Sanchez Pizjuan stadium, where Sevilla had previously won 10 of 12 league games, and wasted two chances to stretch their lead before Stevan Jovetic's leveller in the 43rd.
Sevilla were unable to build momentum after the break and dropped points for the second game running following Monday's 1-1 draw at Alaves, while they had laboured to victories against Athletic Bilbao and Real Betis in their previous outings.
Sevilla have a 2-1 lead in their last 16 tie with Leicester, who have won two games out of two under Craig Shakespeare since Claudio Ranieri was sacked, and Sampaoli urged his side to improve before their visit to the King Power stadium on Tuesday.
"Playing like this we're going to struggle to go far in the Champions League because you face the toughest games against opponents who don't afford you any mistakes," Sampaoli told reporters after his side were booed off the pitch.
"If we don't manage to improve the way we control games then Tuesday's game is going to be very difficult. Then again, we haven't lost for eight games, but we have to try and do much better than we have been doing recently."
The Argentine coach said his side's recent troubles were not just down to struggling to put their chances away.
"The problem is we're not as fluid in our play as before and that prevents us from creating chances against sides that play a different way. The solution is to keep focusing on our play, because we're very anxious and teams that are very organised like they were today impose themselves on us," he added.
"I'm worried that we're not creating chances like we used to, we need to get back to playing a way that works for us."
Scorer Jovetic acknowledged that Sevilla had not performed well enough against a team they were expected to beat.
"We didn't play well today and we all know it. I don't know why but we need to lift our morale because we have a crucial game on Tuesday and we need to get out of this situation.
"We're all to blame and we need to all have a long conversation together to try and resolve this problem."
(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Ken Ferris)